24th Parliament · 1st Session
Mr. SPEAKER (Hon. Sir John McLeay) took the chair at 2.30 p.m., and read prayers.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Territories. Has any survey been made of the hydro-electric potential of Papua and New Guinea? Is there any clear plan for the development of hydro-electric schemes as one factor in an economic basis for the Papuan communities in their future self-government?
– A most extensive survey of the water resources of the Gulf of Papua was made by a company - New Guinea Resources Prospecting Company Limited - of which the Commonwealth Government was a partner at the time when the survey was made. The results of that inquiry are in the hands of the company. In addition, our own Administration people have made less thorough surveys of the hydro-electric potential, and in a number of centres of the Territory we are developing that potential largely for town and domestic purposes. The honorable member will know that one hydro-electric scheme has been started above Port Moresby and has been supplying power to Port Moresby for some time. We are now on the second stage, and are building the Sirinumu dam which will greatly increase the capacity of that scheme. In addition, we have prepared water resources legislation which will govern the terms under which use may be made of the water resources in the Territory. If the honorable member is interested, I can provide him with the text of that legislation.
The other problem to which the honorable member has referred is more difficult. As I understand his question, it would involve working out a method by which resources may be available to private enterprise for development in the present generation without alienating them for ever from the indigenous people of the future.
– Can the Minister for Defence inform the House whether during his discussions with the United Kingdom Minister for Defence in Singapore last week the question of the United Kingdom using Western Australia as an alternative base to Singapore was raised?
– Yes, this was raised, but in a rather oblique way. Because the Prime Minister of Singapore and his Ministers had said they were not only willing but anxious for the United Kingdom to continue in the Singapore base, and because this coincided with the advice of the professional military adviser to the United Kingdom on the spot, it was thought that the Singapore facilities and the bases already existing in Australia were sufficient for the immediate future.
– I ask the PostmasterGeneral a question: Is it a fact that he expects the Australian Broadcasting Control Board to complete its hearing of applications for television licences in about a month? If this is so, does it mean that the board hearings may be regarded as nothing more than a formality, the suggestion being that the Government’s decisions on who will be granted the licences have already been made?
– The implications in the question of the honorable member for Yarra are completely baseless. I am speaking from memory, but I believe the plan is that the time in which applications may be lodged for country television licences will close in June or early July. This group of applications will be heard first. The next group will contain applications for metropolitan licences and for the remaining country licences, and the hearing of these applications will not be completed until the end of the year. Any suggestion that these matters will be determined in a few weeks or that decisions have already been taken is, as I said before, quite baseless. The board will report on all these matters, and will follow the normal plan laid down by the Government. The Government’s decisions, based on the recommenda- tions of the board, will be presented to the Parliament from time to time.
– I preface my question, which is directed to the PostmasterGeneral, by saying that I understand his department is conducting tests to ascertain the effectiveness of transistor telephone systems in isolated areas where line communication is considered uneconomical. Is the Minister in a position now to give the results of these tests? If the tests have been satisfactorily concluded, will he give an assurance that the systems will be installed at an early date in the isolated farming areas in Western Australia?
– It is a fact that the department is testing certain forms of transistor telephone systems throughout Australia. However, I cannot give the honorable member for Canning the results of the tests. The systems are still being tested and until the final results are available we shall not be able to say exactly what use will be made of them. However, I have not the slightest doubt that the tests will eventually establish that they are a success and can provide an efficient method of serving isolated areas which are not now receiving as good a service as we would wish them to have. But I cannot say when we shall be in a position to use the systems mentioned by the honorable member.
– I address my question to the Minister for Primary Industry. I refer to the grant of £750,000 for the relief of tobacco-growers who are suffering hardship as a result of last year’s disastrous season. Has any of this money been allocated, and if so has the relief been made available to tobacco-growers in the Bundaberg area?
– All the money that was voted by the Commonwealth Government for the relief of distress has been passed on to the State governments for distribution. I should imagine that the distribution has been made on the basis of representations made on this matter by the growers’ own committee.
– Does the Minister for Primary Industry consider that the development of powdered butter by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is of major importance to the dairy industry? Does he believe that powdered butter will sell well in tropical countries because it can be stored without refrigeration? Will the Minister recommend to leaders of the dairy industry that promotion of the sales of powdered butter be undertaken as soon as practicable in Australia, and by our Trade Commissioners throughout the world, particularly in Asia?
– 1 understand that the industry is still considering the commercial possibilities of the discoveries by the C.S.I. k.O. with regard to powdered butter. It is understood, of course, that powdered butter will cost more to produce than natural butter. As to sales promotion, the industry is at liberty to promote sales of this product, either overseas or within Australia, whenever it desires to do so.
– My question is directed to the Minister for Shipping and Transport. By way of preface, 1 refer to the tact thai the Minister participated m the launching ceremony in January last of the SS “P. J. Adams”, a 32,250-ton oil tanker built at the Whyalla shipyards of the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited for the owner, Ampol Petroleum Limited. Is it a fact that this is the only Australianbuilt vessel of some 848 oil tankers which are engaged from time to time in discharging cargoes at the five oil ports in Australia? Will the Minister say whether the building of this vessel, the largest to be built in an Australian shipyard, may be taken as an indication that the Government proposes to assist in the building in Australia of a fleet of oil tankers and other vessels? Further, is it a fact that the SS “P. J. Adams “ will be manned by an Asiatic crew and that no Australian seamen will be employed by the owner, Ampol Petroleum Limited, on this vessel? If this is a fact, will the Minister initiate legislation, as a matter of urgency, to guarantee unemployed Australian seamen preference in employment on this new ship and on other vessels now regularly engaged in handling Australia’s imports and exports?
– The various questions asked by the honorable member involve matters of policy. I think I could say briefly that the building of this tanker at Whyalla was a major contribution to the Australian shipbuilding industry by a company which probably could have had the ship built at a lower cost outside Australia. The construction of the vessel was certainly an advantage to Whyalla. As to the crew which will man the vessel, I remind the honorable member that this vessel will not be trading around the Australian coast. As for the honorable member’s question about the construction of tankers in Australia, 1 ask that it be placed on the notice-paper.
– Can the Minister for Defence say what stage has been reached in negotiations between the Government of the United States of America and the Australian Government on the establishment of a radio station on the north-west coast of Western Australia?
– As 1 have told the House on two or three occasions, the United States Government approached us and asked whether it would be permitted to investigate prospective sites in the northwest of Western Australia to determine whether it would be possible or technically desirable to establish a radio station in that area. The United States’ technicians have examined several possible sites. At the present time, representatives of the United States Government and officials of the Department of Defence and of the Department of External Affairs are discussing the question, to decide how far the Australian Government can go to meet the wishes of the United States Government. I do not expect these discussions to be concluded in the next few days. 1 should like to say, however, that I am grateful to the Government and the Premier of Western Australia for the co-operation they have afforded us and the United States technicians. If this major work is undertaken in Western Australia it will be largely due to their efforts.
– I preface my question to the Treasurer by directing attention to the extraordinary increase in foreign portfolio investment in Australia in the last ten years -from £1,500,000 in 1951 to £47,000,000 in 1961. Is it a fact that this kind of foreign investment consists in the purchasing of shares and the taking over of Australian companies? Also, is it a fact that it does not bring any new industry or new technical know-how to Australia? Will the Treasurer review the tax concessions in the double taxation agreements that the American and British investors have in respect of this kind of investment?
– I shall deal with the last part of the question first. The Government, rather than being disposed to restrict the operation of these double taxation agreements, is examining the desirability of widening the field of operation of agreements of this sort. There is no doubt in the minds of the members of this Government and, I think, of most people in Australia who have studied this subject, that we as a nation have greatly benefited by the investment here of the savings of other people overseas. I have had occasion in the past to point to the division of view which appears to exist in the Labour movement. On the one hand, State Labour administrations are actively canvassing for overseas investment and take great pride in pointing to some new industry which has been established in their territory as a result of their efforts. In this place, on the other hand, we have witnessed a studied campaign of attack on overseas investment in Australia.
It is a matter of some irony that when one looks outside this country one sees other countries, which are seeking anxiously to develop their resources, offering a great variety of inducements to overseas investors and sometimes setting up factories for them and offering them taxation holidays of from five to ten years and so on, while we in Australia, working on much less attractive lines in the sense of active inducement, have, by the very nature of the opportunities in Australia and the political stability and scope for expansion here, succeeded in these post-war years in strengthening ourselves with the know-how and capital investment that we have obtained from overseas.
As to the proportion of total overseas investment which portfolio investment represents, I shall see whether I can supply the honorable gentleman with a complete answer on that point.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Primary Industry. Is he aware of an uneasiness in the Australian grazing industry owing to a belief that the present Australian Meat Board is too large to be an effective force in the selling of Australian meat overseas in the present difficult circumstances? Is the Minister considering an alteration of the present constitution of the board?
– I know that a certain section of the graziers considers that we ought to reduce the number of members of the Australian Meat Board. I am not at present considering an alteration of the act under which the board is constituted, and I will not do so until I get the views of the industry thereon. I have asked the Australian Woolgrowers and Graziers Council to consult with other sections of the industry and ascertain their views, so that I may know the thinking of the industry as a whole rather than of a section only. I may say that there is no reason why the present board cannot do an effective job. Its members are men of experience. They know the industry and it is up to them to do an effective job. I should think that they are doing it.
– I ask the Minister for the Interior: Are officers of his department at present engaged on a review of the Canberra building regulations? Is it expected thathis review will lead to substantial alterations in those regulations? Would the Minister consider seeking the advice of incor porated bodies such as the Institute of Architects and the Institution of Engineers, the master builders and master plumbe rs organizations and the building tradegroup of unions before the review reachesfinality?
– I am not aware of what progress has been made with the review, but I will take into consideration the honorable member’s suggestion.
– I preface my question to the Minister for Shipping and Transport by referring to the 5 per cent. increase in overseas shipping freights which was announced recently by the Federal Exporters Oversea Transport Committee. Will this increase cause a corresponding increase in the cost structure of our already hard-pressed primary and secondary exporting industries and be a severe blow to their competitive position in world trade? Was the Commonwealth Government consulted by the committee before the decision to increase freights was made? Can the Government take action to prevent the proposed increase?
– Overseas freights do not come within the purview of my portfolio. They are a matter for the Minister for Trade, so I shall pass on the honorable member’s question to the Acting Minister for Trade and obtain an answer from him.
– I direct my question to the Prime Minister. In view of the appointment of the Honorable J. Renshaw as New South Wales Minister for Development and Decentralization, and the State Government’s determination to proceed with a programme of country economic expansion, will the Prime Minister give practical support to the State by granting financial assistance to new industries, freight concessions and reduced postal and telephone charges? Will he extend to all States railway freight concessions for the haulage of coal similar to those which apply in relation to coal transported from Leigh Creek to Port Augusta in South Australia? Will he take action to ensure that all government departments are decentralized in country centres?
– I appreciate the honorable member’s interest in this subject but he will understand that all the matters he has raised fall for consideration at Budget time when financial policies are announced.
– Will the Minister for Labour and National Service state whether an International Labour Organization conference is to be held in Australia this year? If so, what will be the nature of the conference?
– A meeting of the Asian Regional Conference of the International Labour Organization will be held in Australia this year. I think this is the fifth meeting since the inception of the Asian Regional Conference, and we are very glad that it will be held here. About 300 persons, including the Director-General himself and a fairly large staff, will be present. The conference will be held in Melbourne and will cover a wide range of subjects. I shall obtain the agenda and let honorable members have it as soon as I can. Already we have taken steps to organize the meeting and much has been done, not only to make the conference informative and of benefit to the people of Asia, but also to spread information about the activities of the organization as widely as we can.
– I address my question to the Prime Minister. In view of his electoral and economic experiences of recent months, does he still maintain the opinion that Labour’s economic policies put forward during the election campaign last December were wild and irresponsible?
– The answer, as they say, is in the affirmative.
– In directing a question to the Minister for Labour and National Service I refer to the stop-work meeting held to-day by the Waterside Workers Federation in ports throughout Australia to hear reports from delegates to the triennial conference of the federal council of the union, particularly on the long service leave amendments made last year to the Steve doring Industry Act. Did the Minister, at the time of the passing of these amendments, say that if anomalies emerged in the application of the act he would consider amending the legislation to correct them? Have anomalies emerged, and have there been discussions with the federal officers of the union concerning them? If so, will the Minister say what the anomalies are, and what action is proposed in relation to them?
– When I had discussions with the Australian Council of Trade Unions and the Waterside Workers Federation before introducing the amending waterside legislation in this House, I assured members of the council that if they could point to any anomalies or any injustices in the working of the legislation I would receive a deputation on the matter and, if I thought its representations were fair, I would either make changes administratively or, if it were necessary to make changes in the legislation, I would take the matter to the Government. I have conferred with representatives of the union. Some of the matters put to me were, I believe, fair, and I was prepared to tell the representatives immediately that changes would be made. Other matters had to be considered. Our consideration of them has just about been completed, and I am about to write to the A.C.T.U. and the Waterside Workers Federation telling them that I am in a position to continue the discussions. Sir, I think that this stop-work meeting is both unprofitable and unwise. I am not prepared to make changes insofar as principles are concerned, but so far as anomalies and correctable injustices are concerned I most certainly will do my best to see what can be done. I cannot state here a full list of the anomalies and injustices mentioned to me. I will have a list prepared for the honorable gentleman and give it to him.
– Will you also give it to me?
– Of course I will. I repeat, I think that this is an unnecessary strike.
– The Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority agreed to it.
– The authority had to agree to it. I should have said “ stop-work meeting “, not “ strike “. It means a loss of pay to the men involved. Those concerned must know that I am in the middle of discussions with the A.C.T.U. and that nothing can be gained by the holding of an unnecessary stop-work meeting in the present circumstances.
– My question is directed to the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade. Is it a fact that the United Kingdom has announced a fixed target for the importation of Australian butter? Is this target well below the level of imports of recent years? If so, what is behind the United Kingdom’s sudden reduction of imports of Australian butter?
– Announcements have been made on this subject by the Acting Minister for Trade and also by the Minister for Primary Industry setting out the quotas that have been established by the United Kingdom for butter from various countries exporting to the “United Kingdom market. It is a fact that there has been a reduction in the quota allocated to Australia as well as in the quotas of other countries for this year. However, the imposition of a quota in the previous six months resulted in Australian butter bringing a very much higher price on the United Kingdom market. We expect that, despite the proposed decrease in the quota allocated to Australia, the price will be maintained at a higher level on the United Kingdom market, and that we shall have access to other markets, principally in South-East Asia, for the disposal of surplus production.
– My question is addressed to the Minister for Defence. Is he in a position to inform the House whether the Government has any intention in the near future of acquiring submarines and adding a submarine force to the Royal Australian Navy?
– I think that perhaps this question might better have been addressed to my colleague who represents the Minister for the Navy. I think I should explain that whatever equipment goes into any of the three Services is recommended to the Government by the Service concerned at the time when we decide our regular three-year programme. Then, according to the priorities which are established, the various weapons or equipment are decided upon. Whether the Navy will recommend submarines in the next three-year programme I do not know, because I have not its recommendations. Whether, if the Navy does recommend submarines, they will fit in to the overall priorities for the three Services, again I cannot say. I would say, however, that Australia will have to be pretty careful before it goes into the submarine arm again and will have to take every precaution and examine the position very thoroughly, because three times this country has become involved in submarines and three times it has been pleased to get out of this arm of the Navy.
– Will the PostmasterGeneral inform the House what action he has taken in regard to recent startling disclosures on starting price betting graft in the Postmaster-General’s Department in Victoria? Are these disclosures as serious as the press reports imply?
– Of course I am aware of the allegations made in the Melbourne press on the matter referred to by the honorable member. And of course I would agree that if there were any substance in them they would constitute a very serious charge - so serious, in fact, that it is my intention at the end of question time to seek leave of this House to make a special statement dealing with the whole subject. I shall defer any further reply until that time. I hope I shall receive leave of the House to make such a statement.
– I direct a question to the Minister for Primary Industry. In view of the comparatively low standard of cotton production in Australia, will he consider employing a cotton expert from the United States of America to advise this Government and the State governments concerned on the potential of this country for efficient cotton production and the best means of realizing this potential?
– I will consider the honorable member’s request. As he indicated, there is a low standard of variety.
I presume he refers to the type of cotton that is grown.
– And the quality also.
– This Government has been very generous to the cottongrowing industry in that it has, over the years, given a guarantee of 14d. per lb. for cotton. Yet, in spite of that the quantity grown has not increased very much. However, there are prospects of growing cotton in other areas, and I am now awaiting the report of the Division of Agricultural Economics on that matter.
– I ask the Minister for Territories: Has he yet received a communication from the judge of the Supreme Court of the Northern Territory suggesting a review of a mandatory sentence of one year’s imprisonment imposed on Peter Australia, an aboriginal citizen, for supplying liquor to another aboriginal? Will he give this matter his urgent attention immediately upon receiving any communication from the court upon it, and will he confer with his colleague, the AttorneyGeneral, concerning a request from Darwin that the sentence on Peter Australia be reduced or remitted? As the facts of the Peter Australia case clearly show that it is the considered opinion of a senior federal judge, fully armed with all the facts, that the present liquor laws of the Territory can operate to cause harsh and unwarranted injustice in particular cases, will the Minister now review the policy by which he has twice vetoed reforms agreed to by the Legislative Council for the Northern Territory and make provision for the exercise of discretion by stipendiary magistrates in lower courts in appropriate cases?
– The answer to the first part of the honorable member’s question is, “ No, I have received no communication “. Regarding his comments, I would simply say that this is a matter of policy which must come before the Government for decision.
– I preface a question to the Minister for Repatriation by stating that I have noticed that a new booklet on repat riation benefits has been published. I ask whether this booklet will be made available in sufficient quantities in all States for distribution to ex-servicemen’s organizations. Will members of this Parliament be able to obtain any additional copies that they may require?
– I am pleased to advise the honorable member that the new publication is now available for distribution. The booklet, which is called “ Repatriation Benefits “, is a reprint of the original booklet published in 1958. It sets out the full range of repatriation benefits. It has now been brought up to date. I expect, to-day, to have sufficient copies in Canberra to distribute to all members. Additional copies will be available if required at a later stage. There will be a wide distribution to all exservice organizations, to Commonwealth and State departments, and to local medical officers associated with the Repatriation Department. In addition, we will send copies overseas to Australian embassies and legations, and also to countries which have repatriation systems in operation, for their information.
– I preface a question to the Postmaster-General by saying that, some time back, a telephone exchange was completed in the FJ area in my electorate of Kingsford-Smith, at a cost of approximately £50,000. When does the Minister intend to allocate sufficient money for the necessary field work to be carried out to enable the hundreds of outstanding applicants for telephone services to be satisfied? Does not the Minister believe that a telephone service in the home is a good revenue producer?
– Of course, I agree with the honorable member for KingsfordSmith that a telephone in the home is a good revenue producer. I am not yet in a position to give him information about the extension of telephone services in this area, but I shall do so as quickly as possible.
– Is the Treasurer aware of the vacuum in the present Australian banking system which precludes primary producers from obtaining longterm finance for farming activities? It is very difficult for many producers to understand why this should be so when one can borrow money for a home on terms of up to 25 years. I ask the Minister to examine this Achilles heel in the banking system as it is causing difficulties in the development of rural holdings and restricting opportunities for young people to go on the land.
– The Government recognizes the importance of the matter raised by the honorable gentleman. When, quite recently, we had discussions with various industry groups, including representatives of the trading banks, this was one of the questions discussed. Although it is true that, in most banks, there is either a very limited arrangement or no firm arrangement at all for long-term lending on rural properties, it was pointed out that, in practice, a good deal of that kind of lending does go on. In fact, we were told that some families who have been on the same property, and who have dealt with the same bank for generations, have never had any time limit placed on the advances made to them. There has been no question of calling up the advances so made. So that, in practice, I think there is rather more long-term lending by the banks for rural development, or the conduct of rural properties, than is generally believed. Having said that, I must add that we ourselves do consider that there is in our banking arrangements a gap of the kind to which the honorable member refers. Since the earlier discussions, I have had talks with representatives of the banks, and also with the Governor of the Reserve Bank, directing those discussions to these as well as to other matters. Those talks are continuing, and I hope that they will reach the stage where I can make a public announcement at some time during the next couple of weeks.
– As considerable publicity was given before the recent federal election to the intention of the Government to provide a substantial sum of money for the development of Gladstone Harbour in Queensland, as has been done in connexion with harbours in other States, I ask the Prime Minister whether he can inform the
House when it is proposed to proceed with this project.
– I think I am right in saying that legislation to give effect to what we are doing on that matter is expected to be presented in the course of the present session.
– I direct to the Minister for External Affairs a question relating to the administration of the Colombo Plan gifts. It has been reported that a large number of transport buses presented to the Indonesian Government by the Australian Government under Colombo Plan arrangements are now lying idle because of a lack of spare parts, and that although these spare parts have been on order from Australia since 1957 they have not been forthcoming up to date. Is this report correct? If so, what is the cause of this long delay?
– I cannot say that the report to which the honorable member for Isaacs refers is necessarily true, but I can say that when we supplied the buses to Indonesia under the Colombo Plan we undertook to supply spare parts in quantities which would enable the buses to carry on for some years. I understand that those spare parts have indeed been provided, and, so far as I am aware, the Australian technicians whom we provided to service the buses for a period have reported that there is no shortage of spare parts for these buses in Indonesia at the present time. I shall certainly look into the matter to sec whether the report to which the honorable member has referred is right, and, if it is right, whether there is any defect in the administration of the Colombo Plan aid.
– I ask the Treasurer whether the Government has repaid a £78,000,000 drawing from the International Monetary Fund three to four years before due date of the final instalment, and even some time before the first instalment becomes payable. Did this loan bear interest at about 2 per cent.? Is the Government at the same time making arrangements to borrow £44,700,000 from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development at 5i per cent.? Is this the Government’s idea of good business?
– I assure the honorable member that what has happened in relation to this transaction is the Government’s idea of good business. Indeed, in the judgment of the International Monetary Fund, it was regarded as a model example of the way in which the resources of the fund should be employed.
At a time when there was a sharp run down of Australia’s overseas reserves, we took action to strengthen our position by drawing on our second line of reserves with the International Monetary Fund by borrowing £78,000,000, and entering into a stand-by arrangement covering an amount of £45,000,000. With the quick improvement in the position as a result of the economic measures adopted by the Government, and for other reasons, we were able to cancel the stand-by arrangement quite quickly. So considerable has been the improvement in our overseas reserves that we were able to make a speedy repayment of the borrowing from the International Monetary Fund. It did carry a small rate of interest which varies according to the length of holding of the borrowing; but while the money was in our possession, it was suitably invested. Although that was not the object of the exercise, we showed a tidy profit as between what we had to pay out by way of interest and what we secured from our investment of this amount.
– You lent it at 7 per cent.
– It was invested in the United Kingdom and strengthened the position of that country for that period. But the purpose of the borrowing is not a normal long-term loan operation, of course, nor, indeed, would the fund approve of borrowings on such a basis; so there is no comparison between the transaction with the International Monetary Fund and the transaction with the International Bank. If the honorable gentleman wants a comparison, he can find it in the action of the United Kingdom Government, which also made a very substantial borrowing from the International Monetary Fund and has been steadily repaying the amounts so borrowed. The practice adopted by it and by us is in line with the policies which the fund itself, and those of us who are governors of the fund, recommend to borrowers from it.
– by leave - The Melbourne press on Thursday, 15th March, and subsequent dates contained statements alleging that some Post Office employees were aiding starting price bookmakers and racing tipsters, and were not collaborating with the police in controlling these illegal operators. It is important that these allegations be kept in proper perspective and that the House should be aware of what the Post Office does to aid gaming police and of the very important limitations on what the Post Office can do.
First, let me make it clear that it could not be expected that every one of the Postal Department’s 87,000 officers and employees has a completely blameless record. It is unfortunately true that there will always be, in such a large group, a few individuals who will succumb to temptation from those engaged in illegal practices. I do believe, however, that those Post Office employees who do assist starting price bookmakers and racing operators in any way are exceptions to the very high standard of honesty and loyalty which activates Post Office people.
After the extravagant wording of the early press reports, later statements did begin to place this problem in proper perspective. For example, Chief Commissioner Porter of the Victoria Police is reported to have stated that-
The Victorian Director of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. Smith, has been very helpful to the Victoria Police in the past. Mr. Smith has gone out of his way to help my department with its problems.
Inspector Hill, whose premature statements to the press initiated the recent publicity, admitted at the outset that he was - receiving the co-operation of the Postal Department’s investigators and some of the department’s technicians. and was later reported as saying that - only a few employees are doing the wrong thing, and that - the management of the department is very helpful to us.
As I will show later, Inspector Hill’s assessment that - only a few employees are doing the wrong thing, is based in some instances at least on a suspicion of complicity of Post Office people where this, in fact, does not exist. The extent of the problem, although important, is, therefore, much smaller than the first headlines made it appear.
It is important that there be. the utmost co-operation between Commonwealth and State authorities in. the control of illegal activities. While control of illegal betting is primarily a matter for State police, both sides of this House have been concerned to limit the extent to which Commonwealth communication facilities are used to circumvent State laws and to ensure that the Post Office, without violating public confidence, provides State police with certain information when requested to do so.
The policy followed has been laid down by the Commonwealth Government and, on 30th January, 1943, the then Prime Minister, the late Mr. Curtin, advised all State Premiers of the instructions he had issued to the Post Office specifying the cooperation which should be extended to State police authorities to assist them in dealing with illegal betting. As a result of a review by the Chifley Cabinet, in December, 1946, it was decided that the procedures laid down to assist State police authorities should be continued.
– Hear, hear!
– The Leader of the Opposition might be interested to know that those procedures are still being continued. In the terms of the Government direction, the following practices are observed strictly on the understanding that the information supplied will be regarded as confidential and used solely for the purpose of detecting illegal practices. This information is supplied only to senior police officials who have been authorized by the Commissioner of Police for such purpose.
In addition to this direct co-operation with police authorities, the departmental instructions in recent years have been designed to minimize the possibility of telephone services being used for illegal purposes and provide for special scrutiny of all applications for initial services of more than one exchange line or for additional lines on existing services. These can only be approved by the Superintendent, Commercial Branch.
Where inspection of a telephone service by police or departmental employees shows evidence of unauthorized alterations or additions to the equipment, the services have- been disconnected forthwith and consideration given to prosecution where such a course was justified. Officers engaged on installation work must report any case where facilities are already installed and the telephone order they are handling does not have the endorsement of the Superintendent, Commercial Branch. Likewise they are forbidden to install telephone services in unusual locations without the authority of the divisional engineers. All requests for silent lines must be closely scrutinized by the Superintendent, Commercial Branch, and where any doubt exists as’ to the bona fides of an applicant a statutory declaration must be obtained.
I turn now to liaison procedures. On Monday, 4th April, 1960, in company with the then Director-General, I met a deputation in Melbourne consisting of Mr. Eugene Gorman, Q.C., representing the Victorian Racing Club, Inspector Webb, then Chief of the Gaming Squad, and Senior Constable Sylvester of the Victoria Police.
The deputation asked me to consider the possibility of extending the scope of assistance rendered by the Victorian administration of the Post Office to the Gaming Squad. At the conclusion of the discussions I asked that the request be submitted in writing over the signature of the Chief Commissioner of Police. This action was endorsed by Mr. Gorman. My views were conveyed to the Chief Commissioner of Police and a submission sought. This was received, and the successful outcome of negotiations was acknowledged by the Chief Commissioner who indicated that the nature of the co-operation set out by the Post Office was most satisfactory.
Whilst the general conditions which 1 have just outlined to the House were not changed it was agreed, in order that information could be obtained more quickly by the police authorities, to nominate up to four senior police officers in each State from whom requests for information would be accepted by the department. Since then the Police Commissioner in each State has nominated authorized senior police officers for this purpose.
In July and December, 1960, the instructions to the directors in all States were consolidated to include the new arrangements so that a uniform procedure would apply in this important field of co-operation.
It will be apparent that the Post Office extends to State police a very considerable degree of co-operation, consistent with its responsibility to maintain a communication service in which the public can have complete confidence. It has always been Post Office policy to co-operate fully with police in the maintenance of the law whilst maintaining its obligation to treat as confidential,its transactions with its customers, some-, thing of, extreme value .in the life of., any democratic community.
I shall now deal with investigations in Victoria. The inquiries currently being conducted in Victoria relate to the suppression of dockets for trunk-line calls made by one Melbourne telephone subscriber.
In September, 1961 - I direct the attention of honorable members to the date - I was informed by the Director-General that checks made in Melbourne had dis closed that some dockets for trunk-line calls were not being brought to account. Inquiries had been commenced immediately by the department’s investigation staff. For obvious reasons proceedings were known to only a few senior officers, and have been kept extremely confidential.
As it appeared that a person not employed in the department may have been involved, the police were invited to take part in the inquiry and Inspector Hill and his officers worked for some time in collaboration with departmental officers.
As a result of the work done by the Postal investigation team, a departmental officer was suspended, tried on 2nd March by the court and convicted of being in possession unlawfully of trunk-line dockets. His dismissal has been recommended to the Public Service Board. It was necessary to wait until time for lodging an appeal had lapsed before an official copy of the court order could be secured to accompany this recommendation.
Two other officers have been charged with negligence, improper conduct and breach of regulations. Consideration is being given to the possibility of laying charges against one further officer; and £1,500 in trunk-line fees has been recovered from the subscriber concerned. No action has been taken either by the Post Office or by any one else against any person outside the department.
The Hill report is the next matter I shall deal with. At the time the press made certain statements attributed to Inspector Hill, the Post Office was completely unaware of his report. Apparently the Chief Inspector of Police in Victoria was also at some disadvantage as he was reported as saying -
I have not yet had an opportunity to study Inspector Hill’s report fully. I am disappointed that the matter has been made public before I have had an opportunity to discuss the situation with the Victorian Director of Posts and Telegraphs, Mr. Smith
Mr. Smith subsequently received a copy of Inspector Hill’s report from the Chief Secretary’s Department; the report has been examined and preliminary comment given in reply.
It is expected that there will be discussion at senior departmental level on certain points, and normally I would be reluctant to comment until these discussions had taken place. However, as certain allegations have been made against Post Office people I feel that in all fairness to this House and to the staff of my department I should clear up some obvious misunderstanding of normal departmental services and ‘ procedures.
First, we have the charge that telephones suddenly go out of order during a raid on suspected S.P. premises and are in order again later. The conclusion has been drawn that Telephone Branch employees have acted in concert with the suspects.
Any one familiar with the automatic telephone system knows that the simplest way for a telephone service to be made inoperative for a limited period is for a connexion to be established between two services, and for the receiver of one of these to be left off the switch-hook. Service is restored immediately the handset is replaced.
The Post Office investigators who checked all services concerned in S.P. raids at Colac, which were reported in the press, were convinced that this was the method adopted to achieve the result of which the police complained. There was no evidence of collusion between Post Office employees and suspected S.P. operators.
Another charge is that a country punter calling one number is connected to another number without his knowledge. It has been claimed that this is done to transfer business from one bookmaker to another or to enable bookmakers to receive calls at different premises to avoid detection.
The truth is that, as a standard service, any subscriber to a manual exchange may arrange for incoming calls to be temporarily diverted to another number. Doctors, for example, make wide use of this service to divert incoming calls to another doctor or to a hospital while their surgeries would be unattended.
It is quite likely that S.P. bookmakers make use of this service to permit them to operate from various points. The conclusion that calls to S.P. bookmakers are wrongly diverted by telephonists, however, is quite erroneous and not a logical deduction from evidence. The essential privacy of the telephone, of course, makes it impossible for the telephonist to provide this service on a discriminatory basis.
The charge is also made that telegrams apparently are not paid for. It has been stated that stacks of telegrams lodged at Elizabeth-street Post Office, in Melbourne, on a Friday, are not paid for at the time of lodgment and are given special treatment.
This is only partially true. The telegrams are to interstate destinations, and conform to departmental regulations. If the Police Commissioner believes them to be illegal he may arrange for them to be produced for perusal in accordance with Telegraph Regulation 70.
The procedure followed is standard. About 25 per cent, of the despatch is paid for on lodgment; the remainder are sent under the “ collect “ system, a system well known to salesmen and commercial travellers which enables the cost of the telegram to be paid for by the addressee on delivery. With bulk lodgments of “collect” telegrams, a deposit is obtained to cover any refusals by addressees.
To avoid inconvenience to members of the public and congestion of pneumatic tubes, large bulk “ collect “ telegram lodgments at the Elizabeth-street Post Office are taken by hand to the telegraph operating room for pricing and transmission. There is no secrecy about this procedure and it does not justify any suspicion of irregularity on the part of counter officers concerned.
A further charge is made that mail is redirected. Police have obtained indications that mail addressed to a private box or street address is being diverted to other addresses within the Post Office.
As all honorable members are aware, any person may fill in a form requesting the Post Office which normally delivers his mail to redirect that mail to another address. A redirection order is usually current for six months only.
In a case recently quoted by Inspector Hill, a check revealed that the Post Office held current redirection orders and was quite properly redirecting mail in accordance with standard procedure. There was no evidence of improper collusion with addressees.
I understand from reports in the press that the Chief Commissioner of Police in Victoria has appointed a special police board of inquiry headed by Inspector Hill - the person making the charges, mark you - and two former ‘members of the gaming “squad. This has been done without any reference to myself, and whilst the Government has every desire to have this matter investigated completely, the Government does not propose to submit any of its officers to examination by a State departmental committee. If any inquiry should be deemed necessary, which on present information I doubt, a competent independent authority would be appointed by this Government.
I regret that the circumstances and the publicity recently given to alleged lack of co-operation between some post office officials and State police has required a rather long explanation. I feel, however, that this House would expect to be fully informed.
It will be apparent from my statement that the police, working through agreed channels, can readily secure a great deal of assistance from my department. I am at all times willing to consider requests for further assistance which do not transgress the fundamental principle of privacy of communications sent through departmental services. For its part the department, in giving the police all possible assistance, will deal promptly and severely with any of its own employees found guilty of aiding and abetting illegal practices. It would be quite wrong and unfair, however, to conclude that the ability of certain people to take advantage of communication services to aid their activities is due to collusion by employees of my department.
I lay on the table the following paper: -
Post Office - Co-operation with Slate police authorities in suppressing illegal betting - Ministerial Statement- and move -
That the paper be printed.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Whitlam) adjourned.
Report of Special Advisory Authority
– For the information of honorable members I lay on the table of the House a copy of the Special Advisory Authority’s report on temporary protection for local manufacture of engine bearings and bushings for. motor vehicles, and I ask for leave . to make a short statement in connexion with it.
– Honorable members will recall that, in announcing new measures for giving temporary protection, the Minister for Trade said also that pending the necessary legislative changes, he would, if sufficient urgency existed, call on the Special Advisory Authority, Sir Frank Meere, to examine cases in which it appeared that protection by means of import restriction might be called for. In keeping with that statement, Mr. McEwen subsequently referred to the authority the question whether the local industry manufacturing engine bearings and bushings for use as original equipment and replacement equipment in motor vehicles is being so damaged by imports as to require urgent protection by means of import restrictions.
The Special Advisory Authority now has reported that he is of the opinion that urgent action is necessary to protect the manufacture of bearings and bushings used for original equipment, but not those used for replacement equipment. He has indicated that the necessary protection could be given by import restrictions, but at the same time has pointed out that in his opinion, the circumstances are such that an equivalent result could be obtained more simply by an adjustment of the tariff, which already lies within the power of the Minister for Customs and Excise, that is to say the removal of these goods from concessional by-law. After a further examination of the matter, it now has been decided to remove the goods from concessional by-law with effect as from to-morrow. I may add, however, that this action will not apply to any of those goods which are in direct transit to Australia on this date.
Motion (by Mr. Downer) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the Australian National University Act 1946-1960, the House of Representatives elects Mr. Beazley and Mr. Forbes to be members of the Council of the Australian National University and to continue as members of the council until the first day of sitting of the Twenty-fifth Parliament.
Motion (by Mr. Downer) - by leave - agreed to -
That, in accordance with the provisions of the National Library Act 1960, the House of Representatives elects Mr. Haylen to be a member of the Council of the National Library of Australia and to continue as a member of the council until the first day of sitting of the Twenty-fifth Parliament.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
Commonwealth Banks Bill 1962.
Sales Tax(Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1962.
Without requests -
Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) 1962.
Assent to the following bills reported: -
War Service Homes Bill 1962.
Commonwealth Banks Bill 1962.
Sales Tax (Exemptions and Classifications) Bill 1962.
Sales Tax Bills (Nos. 1 to 9) 1962.
Motion (by Mr. Swartz) - by leave - agreed to -
That leave be given to bring in a bill for an act to amend section 11a of the Customs Tariff (New Zealand Preference) 1933-1961.
Bill presented, and read a first time.
– by leave -I move -
That the bill be now read a second time.
This bill is complementary to the Tariff Board Bill 1962 which was recently introduced. As in the case of the Customs Tariff Bill 1962, which, honorable members will recall, was introduced on the same day as was the Tariff Board Bill, the amendments proposed in the present bill are consequent upon amendments proposed in the Tariff Board Bill. No changes of substance are contemplated.
When the debate is resumed, I shall ask that the House consider having a general second-reading debate covering this bill together with the Tariff Board Bill and the Customs Tariff Bill.
Debate (on motion by Mr. Pollard) adjourned.
Debate resumed from 15th March (vide page 925), on motion by Mr. Bury -
That the bill be now read a second time.
.- Mr. Speaker, the House can now return to the more mundane but practical task of discussing the additional grants which it is proposed shall be made to the States under the terms of this bill for the purpose of stimulating and assisting housing in each of the States of Australia. The housing problem is an old one. It has been greatly accentuated, of course, by the diminution in the number of houses built during the war years when the great majority of Australia’s young men and of the men who were normally employed in building were either engaged in the process of smiting our enemies abroad or in supplying the needs of our soldiers here and abroad. Over the last twelve years, there has been a very rapid increase in population owing to natural increase and immigration. In consequence, this old problem of housing remains with us.
Australians have a most unfortunate habit. They persist in wishing to dwell in houses. Despite every effort made by this federal Government to discourage them, they persist in this iniquitous habit of wanting houses to live in. They want, as Robert Service put it in “ Songs of a Sourdough “ - a fireside far from the cares that are,
Most Australians have that basic wish which was expressed by Robert Service in those terms. This unfortunate habit of wanting to live in a house is not confined only to wage and salary earners. It is to be found also among the pensioners. This habit persists in pensioners and wage and salary earners, Mr. Speaker, in just the same way as it is found in those who can afford to expend large sums of money on the building of luxurious homes. There are many who, by a combination of hard work and good luck - in this country, both are needed - are able to provide for themselves houses which are of very high quality indeed. We on this side of the House, of course, are primarily concerned with those who have to be satisfied, and are satisfied, with considerably less.
We regard the problem of housing as being a national one. Yet, by the way in which grants are made to the States, this problem is treated as being a State one. There has grown up the practice by which the Commonwealth allocates annually certain sums of money to the States. They are expected to solve the housing problems of State citizens by using those grants. If (he States’ needs are greater than can be met from the Commonwealth funds, they are expected to find revenue from other sources. I consider that this problem must be regarded as being a -national rather than a State one. About three-quarters of the people of this country who want houses find themselves in a position in which they are obliged to seek some source from which they can borrow money with which to build or buy a home. The Commonwealth has decreed that 30 per cent, of the funds provided by it for housing shall be allocated to building societies. Since this Parliament lays down such terms in the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement, it hardly seems that the agreement can be described as an amicable one.
In the last ten years, there have been three depressions in the building industry. They have been most serious depressions for those who have been actively engaged in providing homes for the Australian people and those who want homes. I think it is only fair to say, in defence of those people engaged in home construction who made such a major contribution to national welfare, that they are at least entitled to know that, for a long time ahead, there will be no interference with their building programme. Yet, in the last ten years, there have been three artificially produced depressions in the building industry.
The most recent credit squeeze has dealt yet one more deadly blow at the building industry in Australia* particularly in Victoria and New South Wales, where there has been the greatest increase in population owing to natural increase and also to migration. I think it is only fair to those two States to direct attention to the great increase in their populations as a result of the immigration programme - a programme which is so desirable and so necessary. I want to compare the problem in Victoria and New South Wales with the situation in Western Australia, where, on a proportionate basis, migration has had a much smaller effect. Because the population in that State has increased much more slowly, and mainly due to natural increase, the housing problem there is less serious. In New South Wales and Victoria, on the other hand, the problem is one of major dimensions.
This bill sets forth to palliate the crime which was committed last year against the Australian building industry. Some £7,500,000 is being made available to the States. There can be little doubt that it will have some effect but it is very doubtful whether it will have sufficient effect. Ten years ago £7,500,000 would have built many more houses than it will build to-day, thanks to the increase in the price of labour and materials. The Government hopes by this bill to repair some of the damage that was done to the building industry. It hopes also to reduce the housing shortage by using other means such as reducing income tax, to which I shall make passing reference because the Government’s proposal gives pence to those who need help and pounds to those who do not.
At this stage let me raise the question whether there really is a housing agreement. When the State Premiers meet the Treasurer (Mr. Harold Holt) in conference and discuss their needs, which include funds for housing, they invariably leave the conference room expressing dissatisfaction with what they have received. I should imagine that that is quite a normal thing for any State Premier to do. If I were a State Premier no doubt I would always express dissatisfaction with the treatment I had received from the Commonwealth. But it is worthy of notice that dissatisfaction is expressed by all Premiers, whether they be of Labour or Liberal persuasion. Therefore, we must question whether there is really a housing agreement which is satisfactory to the States. I strongly doubt that there is.
I should like to refer to the New South Wales Housing Commission. This body builds homes by private contract. The thought seems to exist in many quarters that the Housing Commission is a socialistic kind of institution which, by using only day labour, produces houses at a cost far in excess of what it should be. A critical, careful and fair examination by any impartial observer will reveal that the Housing Commission lets its contracts only after a very careful examination of all tenders received. It sifts them and then arrives at what it believes to be the correct decision. It is anything but a socialistic institution.
All State housing commissions have been criticized because they have built large numbers of bouses for renting. But not every one wants to buy a home simply for the sake of owning one. Scores of thousands of people in the community need only temporary residences throughout the Commonwealth according to the demands of their occupations. The housing commissions seem to be the only organizations remaining in this land which build houses solely for renting. They deserve commendation. The New South Wales Housing Commission is a fair landlord. I know that there are still many very fair private landlords, but there are also many unfair landlords and building speculators. If the housing commissions received a larger share of the money now made available, those who need homes so desperately would be more likely to receive a fair go because they would be more certain of better treatment from these public authorities than they can expect from private investors or speculators. There is no exploitation by the housing commissions.
This House should be well and truly informed of one very important fact relating to the New South Wales Housing Commission. Every nail, every screw, every piece of timber, every brick, every tile and every p.c. item that goes into a New South Wales Housing Commission home has been made in Australia. That ls one of the requirements prescribed by the New South Wales Government. The New South Wales Housing Commission is a most patriotic institution. New South Wales is governed by Labour, and I am proud to reflect that the commission declares openly for goods made in Australia. I wonder how many Commonwealth instrumentalities which could prescribe similarly have failed to do so! I know that many articles are bought overseas by Commonwealth instrumentalities which could well have been purchased in Australia. There seems to be the delusion that if you go scrounging about the world looking for the cheapest goods you will find a product that is satisfactory and the saving will be of benefit to Australians. That is not true. It will be found that items purchased from countries where the cost of manufacture is very low, and consequently where the sale price is low, act to the detriment of Australian goods, Australian businesses and Australian workmen. The price we pay in unemployment is far higher than any value we might receive from purchasing the cheaper goods overseas.
Let me now discuss the allocation of 30 per cent, of housing funds to building societies. The result of the Government’s decision in this regard could have been foreseen very easily. In fact, at the time when it was announced, we on this side of the House predicted what would happen. There was an immediate diminution of funds available to building societies from other sources, including the Commonwealth Bank itself. This was a perfectly natural development. Peter has been robbed to pay Paul. The funds which previously had been made available to building societies by life assurance companies and by the private banks were reduced considerably. Those institutions immediately grasped the fact that the building societies were receiving a definite allocation so they believed there was no need for them to pour into the building societies as much as had been poured into them in the past. As a result of this allocation of funds to building societies the poorer sections of the community - I have in mind the pensioners and the scores of thousands of people who, through no fault of their own, cannot find the high deposit demanded to buy or build a home - are penalized because the building of homes for rental by the housing commissions is correspondingly restricted.
Let me digress a little at this stage. Two weeks ago we were discussing the War Service Homes Bill which provided for an increase of £750 in the maximum war service homes loan, taking the loan to £3,500. The war has been over now for more than sixteen years. In that period many young men who have had no chance to serve in this country’s armed forces in war-time have grown up, married and had families. They are thus debarred from the right to receive a loan of £3,500 to build themselves a home. This anomaly will become increasingly apparent with the passing of every year. So we are coming to the point where the Commonwealth will have to start saying that every citizen of marriageable age who desires to buy or build a home shall have equal rights with every other citizen.
In its financial columns the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ last week directed attention to the ready availability of credit. However, the article pointed out that there is a grave reluctance on the part of those who would normally be expected to seek credit to take advantage of the offers now available to them. I think the answer to this apparent paradox is to be found in an absence of confidence. I wonder how many builders and businessmen had their fingers burned as a result of the several credit squeezes imposed by the Government during the last ten years. Can it be a cause of surprise that to-day these gentlemen have not the confidence to go to a lending institution for credit to finance the expansion of their businesses even if those businesses involve the building of houses, which probably represent the best kind of security to be found in this or any other country? In fact, were I a builder I would be most cautious about accepting the credit facilities offered because, considering the three credit squeezes which have been applied over the last ten years, nobody can predict whether or when there will be another change in policy which will result in drying up the credit facilities now available.
It seems to me that there are too many generals in the Liberal Party who are everlastingly blowing the bugle for retreat. Their logistics make provision for this instrument in their army bands, and far too frequently do we hear the bugle call for retreat. As soon as this country looks like making some rapid progress in the direction of satisfying the wants of its people there is an outcry from honorable gentlemen opposite that the economy is expanding too rapidly and things must be slowed down. I could understand this if we were galloping to inflation. Nobody can deny that there has been some inflation, but we could solve the problem by having more planning. If builders and motor car manufacturers, for instance, were told that for the next six or twelve months they should plan for a gradual but steady reduction of output so that provision could be made to prevent the occurrence of inflation, controls could be applied in a more orderly fashion.
Last week, we learned from an honorable member on the Government side that there is no shortage of houses. He alleged that there was only a shortage of money. That reminds me that a former member of the Upper House in New South Wales also said at a conference about seven years ago that there was no shortage of houses. He said there was a shortage of deposits. It seems to me that, as Australia has the workmen, the factories, the industries and the know-how, there is no excuse for a shortage of houses. If the problem is only a shortage of money, surely that is a matter for the gentlemen who control Australia’s finances. I refer in particular to the Governor of the Commonwealth Bank and to the Treasurer. It should lie within the power of those two gentlemen and this Parliament to see that the housing problem is solved quickly and solved for ever.
Twelve weary years have passed since this Government took office as a result of the promises it made to the electors in 1949, and now it either cannot or will not make credit available so that people may buy homes. Last week, an honorable member on the Government side damned his own government, by implication, by saying that the Government was aware of what it was doing when it restricted finance for home building. The Government is apparently afraid of a depression if the number of houses built ever catches up with the requirements of the people, and so the building industry either slows down or comes to a standstill. I do not think it necessarily follows that the supplying by the building industry of enough houses would produce a depression. Surely, among the many thousands of home owners in this country, there would be many living in old homes which they would desire to alter. I can readily imagine that from that source alone there would at all times be sufficient demand to keep the building industry working at a consistently high level.
I often regret that the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization is not supplied with more money to enable it to make an effecive contribution to the art of home building. The art of building to-day is much the same as it was several thousands of years ago. Long ago home builders built in timber, using nails, or they fitted timber together, or built stone by stone or brick by brick just the same as they do now. There has not been a great deal of change in materials or methods, and I often wonder whether the C.S.I.R.O., if it were asked to tackle the problem, could devise some means whereby houses could be mass produced in much the same way as motor cars.
Now I wish to say something about the various birthrights of the Australian people. I think Australians are not very difficult to satisfy. They have certain simple fundamental requirements. I think that they want from their governments, first, equality of opportunity. They want to feel that no matter where they may be in Australia will have the same chance as those more favorably situated geographically. Secondly, they would like, and expect to have, the right to receive a decent education, no matter where they may be living in Australia. Thirdly, every Australian wants a fair and reasonable job at a fair and reasonable wage. That is not too much to expect. Fourthly, Australians believe that they have, as a birthright, the right to buy or rent a home. Fifthly, they want security, especially in old age. I know that the Government has made some attempts, through the Aged Persons Homes Act, to provide homes for the elderly, but some homes are still provided only for those who have a quite considerable sum of money. The building of a home under the Age Persons Homes Act would still cost a pensioner £500 or £600, and it would be a small home unit at that figure. I believe that the instrumentalities which could do much to provide homes for the elderly are local councils. If they had had access to money provided under the act one of our housing problems would have been solved at least a year ago; but they are denied access to funds under that act.
I repeat that what Australians want, in the long run, is a home and security, especially in their old age. If this bill goes some distance towards satisfying that need it deserves the commendation of this House. We feel, however, that the amount of money allocated by the Commonwealth for this purpose is, as usual, and as we have come to expect, inadequate and that it will not accomplish the purpose for which this measure has been brought down. We deplore that fact. Had we become the Government of this country we would now be building the homes needed by the Australian people. I have enough confidence in Australia and in Australians to believe that the Government should allocate much more finance for this purpose in order to produce the effect which would have flowed from the efforts of this side of the House had we become the Government.
– The honorable member for St. George (Mr. Clay) always brings forward reasonable arguments from his party’s point of view. We, on the Government side of the House, contrary to his opinion, also consider that all the people should live in homes. Indeed, we go further and say that all families should live in homes which they own. We would like to see aD families and not just 75 per cent, of the families in Australia owning or purchasing their homes. We believe that families who own their homes have a stake in the country and that, in the words of Mr. Dedman, who was a member of the Opposition some years ago, they are little capitalists. We believe that little capitalists of the type who own their houses are good for Australia and good for any country. It would appear also from what the honor* able member for St. George said that he would like a national authority set up to control the building of new homes. Here, again, we differ from his point of view, because we believe in decentralization of authority, particularly in the home-building field. It was, in fact, a Labour government which initiated the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement in 1945, and as a result of that agreement we have housing authorities in each State building homes for people in the lower income bracket. We believe that if a national housing authority was set up in Canberra the cost of its administration would be so great that fewer homes would be built than are now being constructed. [Quorum formed.]
The main purpose of this bill is to authorize the provision of an addition;)l £7,500,000 for the purposes of the State housing authorities. Although it is a simple measure, we have debated it for several days. A lot has been said about the State housing authorities, and honorable members opposite have claimed that an additional £7,500,000 will not add much to present building activities. It is estimated that this provision will enable an additional 2,400 to be built, and I assume that they will be built by 30th June next. The amount now being authorized is in addition to the amount previously provided under the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement for the current financial year.
After listening to the debate it would appear that honorable members opposite do not want this extra money injected into the building industry or that they are deliberately using this bill to make party political capita] out of the needs of low income earners. This type of premise highlighted the Opposition’s contribution to ihe debate on the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement in this House in May and October last year. On the former occasion, as reported at page 1917 of “Hansard”, the honorable member for Batman (Mr. Bird) said -
Members on the Government side seem to have lost all recollection of why the State housing authorities were formed.
Yet the bill presented to the chamber last October and the bill now before us both emphasize the need to assist in the housing of low income families. We emphasize that the whole purpose of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement is to assist in the housing of such families. Yet on 15th March last the Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam) said -
So it would seem, from the latest figures available to honorable members, that the number of houses being built by housing commissions was already being increased before this appropriation was made.
Does this mean that the Deputy Leader of the Opposition is opposed to the purpose of this bill and is, in effect, opposed to the building of an additional 2,400 homes for people in the lower income group? In fact, he added -
I draw the inference that the additional allocation which we are now making will not in fact provide any stimulus to house-building. It will not, in fact, enable the housing commissions to build at any faster rate during the remainder of this financial year than they were already building in the early part of this financial year.
What a fantastic statement, coming as it does from a self-confessed statesman, and what a criticism of the State housing authorities which will receive approximately 20 per cent, more money in a given time than the 1961 agreement provided for. Yet, according to the Deputy Leader of the Opposition, these State bodies will not be enabled to build homes at a faster rate. Such an attitude calls for the strongest condemnation not only by the various State housing ministers, but also from members of his own party. I hope that some of them will bring this matter up in caucus at some future date.
Members of the Opposition have said that members of the Government do not know the real purpose of the Commonwealth and State Housing Agreement. Just prior to the debate on this agreement in 1961 I perused many of the applications made to the State Housing Commission of Victoria and was amazed to find that at least 50 per cent, of the applications were made by families in which there were two or more income-earners. In other words, the wife was working as well as the husband or, in some cases, one or more of the children also were working. Admittedly, particularly in Victoria, the breadwinner must earn not more than £25 a week in order to qualify as an applicant, but even though he earns perhaps £22 10s. or £23 a week and his wife or one or two of his children are working he is still entitled to put his name down for a housing commission home. That was why I interjected when the Deputy Leader of the Opposition was speaking to this debate and said that people were not allowed to put down their names for housing commission homes in Victoria if they earned more than £25 a week. When perusing the applications for State Housing Commission homes in Victoria I was amazed to find that one of the applicants was a family with total earnings of £65 a week, and that that applicant was still eligible for such a home in Victoria. Admittedly the authorities in that State wisely put a family of that type on a low priority. But from a statistical point of view the name of that applicant and those of families in which there are two or more income-earners still remain on the housing commission’s list in Victoria.
I do not want to dwell on what has been said about this rather small financial bill but there are two points which I think that Government supporters and the building industry should consider in relation to building homes for people in the future. [Quorum formed.] The first point is that the deposits now required for building houses are much greater than they were ten years ago. They are much more than the average income-earner can provide. Over the years, what has been referred to as a “ deposit gap “ has been brought about. In or about 1950 it was possible to buy a home on a deposit of approximately 20 per cent. To-day from 35 per cent, to 37 per cent, of the price of a home and land is required as deposit. It is beyond the means of the low wage-earner and even of the middle income-earner to provide this high deposit. So, particularly in the last three or four years, there has been a secondary method of raising finance at a very high interest rate in order to fill the deposit gap. This means that unless the Government shows the way to the building industry and the lending authorities to bridge the gap. the proportion of home owners in the population must fall below the figure of 75 per cent, of which we are so proud to-day. The answer to this problem must be found by the Government, by the building industry, and by the financial institutions.
The Master Builders Association of Victoria, The Victorian Builders and Allied Trades Association, the Victorian Chamber of Commerce and the Australian Council of Trade Unions have figures which prove that the deposit gap is the main reason why people cannot buy homes as readily as previously. I think it was the honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) who mentioned that there were 4,500 homes available for renting or sale in Melbourne at the present moment. People would buy or rent those homes if they had the necessary finance. I believe that the Government and honorable members who support it will make every effort to ensure that more families, particularly those in the low income group, will have additional finance made available to them at reasonably low interest rates.
The other point that I would like to make is that, in the last ten years, particularly in Sydney and Melbourne, there has been a tendency for fewer people to live in each home. In 1950, an average of about 4.5 persons lived in each home in New South Wales and Victoria. The figure for Victoria is now 3.2 people per home and I think that the figure for New South Wales is 3.4. This tells me that we have built, in the last ten years, for a given number of people, 25 per cent, more homes than were required prior to 1950. This has involved a 25 per cent, increase in the number of builders used to build the homes and a 25 per cent, increase in the amount of materials and finance required.
I cannot agree that we had a recession of any consequence last year. But if we run into a real recession there will be a tendency on the part of families to put more people into homes that are already built and the building industry, the finance companies and all the organizations associated with the building of homes will really have a problem on their hands.
In 1929 some of us saw the beginnings of a period of depression during which the building industry stagnated beyond recognition. I venture to predict that unless the industry, the finance companies and the’ Government can show the way to a solution of problems such as the deposit gap we shall have an infinitely greater depression than that which commenced in 1929. As I have said, I believe that the deposit gap is the main reason why more people are not buying homes. More people want to rent homes now than hitherto. If the Government and the Opposition will get behind the organizations that build homes, I feel that between us we shall find the answer. After all, there is enough money in the country to build the homes. The high interest rate on second mortgages, however, makes the financing of home purchase a great and hazardous burden for the ordinary income-earner.
I conclude by saying, not only that I support the bill, but that I hope the Government will continue its efforts to ensure that people in the low and middle income groups will be able to buy their own homes.
.- I should like to make a few brief remarks in reply to the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Whittorn). The honorable gentleman described the Government’s policy as being one of providing homes for the people at a low or a reasonable rate of interest. May I draw the honorable gentleman’s attention to the fact that his Government was responsible for an increase in interest rates which has resulted in housing commission tenants and home purchasers paying an additional £1 a week in interest or rent? His Government’s policy of dear money has had a similar effect on people who have borrowed money through the Commonwealth Bank or other banking institutions. The honorable member for Balaclava also said that there was not a real depression last year. That statement is a clear indication of the Government’s attitude. The Government does not believe in full employment. It believes in a pool of unemployed. In view of the honorable member’s remark that there was not a real depression last year, I presume that we can look forward to something bigger and better in the very near future from the Government.
This bill provides for additional loan raisings for State housing of £7,500,000, of which some £2,250,000 will be made available to the building societies. Perhaps we should be thankful that the Government has at least seen fit to make more money available, but I propose to show that the Government should make an even greater amount available. The present bill is part and parcel of the Government’s go-stop-go policy with which it has blundered through in recent months. The Government does not know what to do to overcome the problems which it has created, particularly the problem of unemployment. This measure is just another experiment in the Government’s go-stop-go philosophy. This measure is only another part of this Government’s stop-and-go policy. The Government’s history is a pathetic one. It is a history of a stop-and-go policy implemented not only in recent months, but during the whole of its regime from December, 1949, until now. All honorable members know that since December, 1949, there have been three government-made depressions, three depressions caused by the economic bungling of this Government. And the present acute housing shortage is the result of the Government’s economic bungling.
The Government alleges that the £7,500,000 to be provided under this bill is only part of its contribution towards the restoration of full employment. If one examines the latest housing figures available one is able to see quite clearly what little effect a mere £7,500,000 will have on home building as a whole. I have before me figures issued by the Commonwealth Statistician as recently as 21st March, 1962. They are the latest figures available, and they disclose that in the eight months from July, 1960, to February, 1961, there were built in Australia 56,482 homes, and that for the corresponding period in 1961-62 the number declined by 10,983 to 45,499.
The figures to which I have referred relate to private home building. They also disclose that for the first eight months of the financial year 1960-61, a total of £205,358,000 was made available to the private home building sector, but that for the corresponding period in 1961-62 the amount dropped by £51,062,000 to £154,296,000. The figures also disclose that the number of homes built by State government instrumentalities for the first eight months of 1960-61 was 10,166, but that in the corresponding period of the year 1961-62 it dropped to 8,557. In o.her words, 1,609 fewer homes were built by State government instrumentalities in the first eight months of 1961-62 than were constructed in the corresponding period in 1960- 61 and the amount of money spent on homes by the various governments dropped by £2,601,000 in 1961-62.
The total number of homes built throughout the Commonwealth dropped from 66,648 for the first eight months of 1960-61 to 54,056 in the corresponding period of 1961- 62- a decline of 12,592 homes. And the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Whittorn) says that this Government is anxious to encourage home ownership! The total amount spent on home building for the first eight months of 1960-61 was £232,661,000. For the first eight months of this financial year, the figure has dropped by £53,664,000 to £178,997,000. I emphasize that the decline is over £53,000,000, and all this Government can do to stimulate the economy and provide employment is to make available a paltry £7,500,000. If home building continues at its present rate, then, by the end of this financial year, approximately £46,000,000 less will have been spent on home building in Australia than was spent last financial year.
The Government is well aware of the fact that at 30th June last year 76,000 applications for homes had still not been satisfied by the various State housing authorities, yet it continues to pursue a policy which has so contracted credit that, provided home building continues at the present rate, then, even including the £7,500,000 provided in this bill, £46,000,000 less will have been made available for home building throughout the Commonwealth by the end of this financial year. No honorable member on the Government side can deny those facts. The Government cannot deny that its policy has destroyed the confidence of investors.
We know that recently the Government has been able to borrow larger sums of money than it was able to borrow in previous years. For instance, we know that although the Government stated that the loan market could supply only £165,000,000. it has already raised £14,000,000 in excess of that sum. This has been possible because insurance companies, superannuation funds and banks which had money that could have been made available for home building were compelled to invest that money in Government loans. But, after drawing off this money from the economy, the Government is not prepared to replace it by undertaking additional expenditure.
The Government could stimulate the economy in several ways. For instance, it could undertake additional public works programmes, it could invest money in industry, and it could assist the States to develop some of their industries. We know that Western Australia has unlimited supplies of raw material. This Government could assist the Western Australian Government to exploit those raw materials, to develop industries and in that way do much to assist the provision of employment and the decentralization of development in that State. The Government must do these things if the ‘ problem of unemployment is to be solved.
More could be done to stimulate homebuilding. The Government should be making much more than £7,500,000 available for this purpose. It should make available at least that amount which is necessary to utilize all materials and man-power available. Later I propose to show that the supply of materials is shorter now than it was twelve months ago, and that the number of people engaged in home-building is lower than it was twelve months ago. I mention these points to emphasize that £7,500,000 is far too little to meet present needs. Much more is needed if the economy is to be given the boost necessary to provide employment for the thousands of men and women who are in need of work to-day.
Especially is it important that something be done to provide homes for the 76,000 people whose applications to the various State housing instrumentalities have been approved. It must never be forgotten that these 76,000 applicants are all people in the lower income group, people who have not the financial resources to build homes without aid from such authorities as housing commissions. These are all people who are obliged either to buy or to rent homes on the terms laid down by the various State instrumentalities, which in turn are dictated to by this Government.
It must be remembered also that this Government has required the State bousing authorities to charge a higher rate of interest. I remind honorable members that when the scheme was introduced first by the Chifley Labour Government in 1945, the interest charged was 3 per cent. Since that time, this Government has been responsible for increasing the interest charged to the present high figure of 41 per cent. And the honorable member for Balaclava says that this Government favours low rates of interest! In view of the facts that I have mentioned, the Government has an obligation to make enough money available to remedy the housing shortage, and to make it available at low rates of interest so that those who buy homes from the State housing authorities may be able to pay them ofl more quickly and those who are renting homes from those instrumentalities may enjoy the comfort pf a home at a lower rental. I repeat that these people are. all in the lower income, group. They, are all people who cannot afford to pay the high rates of interest being charged to-day.
During the recent federal election campaign, the Labour Party said that it would make money available for home building at 3± per cent. I have discussed this matter with persons in the building industry and they have assured me that lower interest rates would mean a considerable saving to home purchasers whether they obtained them through housing commissions or building societies. A reduction to 3i per cent, would mean a fall in interest payments of £1 a week on a £3,000 loan or the termination of the contract nine or ten years earlier. The Government has made no attempt to reduce interest rates although it should and could do so.
Supporters of the Government have said previously that they are not prepared to make more money available for homebuilding because there are not enough tradesmen or building materials available. Bricks and timber are the main components of houses and dwellings. We know that there is plenty of galvanized iron available. Home builders can easily get all the tiles and pipes, both for water and drainage, that they require. I have not the figures for those materials but statistics recently released show that in 1959-60, the output of clay bricks was 1,030,000,000 and the following year the output was 1,061,000,000. I have the figures for December, January and February last, and production of clay bricks in those three months had fallen by 26,000,000 compared with the corresponding period the previous year. If that decline continues, we will produce 104,000,000 fewer bricks this year than last year.
I have the figures relating to the production of sawn timber for December and January last. The figures for February are not available. These statistics show that in December and January 1960-61, production of sawn timber was 196,000,000 super feet compared with 179,000,000 in December and January 1961-62, a decline of 17,000,000 super feet equal to 102,000,000 super feet in twelve months at the same rate of decrease. The previous year, production was down 124,000,000 super -feet. A similar position exists in relation to hardboard and masonite which is produced near my electorate. Previously, the factory was working 21 shifts a week of seven days but now it is down to fifteen shifts. The decline in the production of hardboard is clearly shown in the figures available for 1960-61 compared with 1959-60. Production fell by 1,345,000,000 square feet and production is still falling. For the months of December, January and February, the output was down by 557,000,000 square feet compared with the corresponding period in the previous year. There is any amount of building material available to-day and the Government could make available money so that employment would be provided in the building industry and the people would be provided with homes.
Figures released by the Commonwealth Statistician show that in December, I960, there were 50,701 carpenters in the trade and the number had declined to 44,392 in September, 1961, a decline of 6,309. The number of bricklayers fell from 13,724 in December, 1960, to 11,537 in September, 1961, a decline of 2,187. In December, 1960, there were 21,521 builders’ labourers employed in the industry and their number has fallen by 2,444 to 19,077 in September, 1961. I have not referred to plumbers, painters, tilers, plasterers and other employees but the figures all show the same trend. The total number of workers employed in the building industry fell from 138,958 in December, 1960, to 119,677 in September, 1961, a decline of 19,281. These figures show that both materials and labour are available and undoubtedly there is a need for home building.
Let me analyse this Government’s thinking and its attitude. The Government has severely criticized the trade union movement for creating industrial disputes and it has brought down repressive legislation to impose severe penalties on unions which engage in industrial action to support their claims for better wages and conditions. I have made an extract of comparative figures. The publication of the Department of Labour and National Service entitled “Training for Skilled Occupations” shows, in table 6 under the heading, “ Unemployed Applicants Awaiting Placement”, the monthly average of registered unemployed in the building industry in 1961 was 3,502. There are 250 working days in a year so that the total number of mandays lost through unemployment was 675,500. Those days were lost through this Government’s economic policy. These figures do not include the large group of builders’ labourers but cover only skilled tradesmen.
Honorable members have received to-day a publication from the Commonwealth Statistician which .shows that 48,300 man-days were lost through industrial disputes. So 675,500 man-days were lost through unemployment because of this Government’s policy and 48,300 man-days were lost through industrial disputes. That means for every day lost through industrial disturbances the Government created a loss of fourteen man-days by unemployment. The loss of wages through industrial disputes was £229,273, but wages lost as a result of this Government’s policy of creating a pool of unemployed totalled £3,377,500. This Government believes in unemployment and tries to suppress any endeavour by the trade unions to improve wages and conditions. In the waterfront industry, the Government has attacked the provisions for long service leave. I ask honorable members to consider how this Government is endeavouring to suppress the trade union movement and cover up the real position at the same time.
I want to deal with one other aspect of housing, and that is the role of building societies. Insufficient money is being made available by this Government to building societies. The Government can make additional sums available. It can lay down the minimum amount that will be available to building societies. It can say that 30 per cent, of all money it makes available for housing shall go to building societies, and there is nothing to prevent the Government from increasing its allocation to building societies. Unlimited amounts can be made available to building societies, but let us examine the position. In my electorate, building societies have no money available at the moment. From the last grant, one building society received1 a little more than £10,000, and that was some months ago. People have lost confidence in home building, because the Government has not made sufficient money available to building societies.
Several building societies have established private investment funds. People are encouraged to invest their money in these funds at 5J per cent, interest. The societies then lend the money at 6) per cent. A limited amount of this type of money is available. Very little money is made available from the bank «r from the State housing authorities under the housing agreement. Let us compare the rates of interest. Money is available from State housing authorities at 51 per cent., from the Commonwealth Bank at 5i per cent, and from investment funds at 6i per cent. This is under a Government which allegedly makes money available for housing at low rates of interest! 1 have gone through the last financial reports of some building societies and I find that this is the position: Since 1958-59, banks have increased their loans to building societies from £92,000,000 to £103,700,000. That is not a very big increase. Fire and general insurance companies have increased their loans from £13,100,000 to £14,500,000, an increase of £1,400,000. Life assurance companies had outstanding loans amounting to £20,600,000 in 1958-59 and their outstanding loans now are still £20,600,000. Insurance companies are not investing their money in housing. Loans from friendly societies were £2,200,000 in 1958-59 and have increased by £200,000. Miscellaneous loans have increased from £9,400,000 to £11,400,000 in the same period, and this increase has been brought about only by the New South Wales Superannuation Fund increasing the amount of its loans to building societies by £1,000,000 a year. None of the other lending authorities have increased their loans to building societies.
If the Government sincerely wants to ensure that sufficient homes will be available to the people of Australia, it must do a much better job in the provision of finance than it has so far done. I have shown clearly that the amount of finance available has declined seriously. I have pointed out that some 19,000 fewer men are employed in the building industry and that the production of building materials to-day is not as great as it was in previous years. A comparison of the facts and figures shows undeniably that the Government should increase its allocation by far more than this £7,500,000 that is being made available under this bill. If the Government genuinely wishes to provide more houses and to create more employment, it will make more money available.
.- I want to comment on one or two points raised by the honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones). I think in every speech he has made, whether on housing, the stevedoring industry or any other subject, he has dealt with unemployment and has alleged that the objective of the Government is to increase unemployment. It is very simple to make this allegation. But if the honorable member reads the second-reading speech of the Minister for Air (Mr. Bury), as he should before he engages in a debate on the bill, he will see that one purpose of the bill is to stimulate the building industry. Why would the Government want to stimulate the building industry? Obviously, it wants to create employment for people m the building industry.
– They have been put out of work by the Government.
– It is possible to argue both ways. This measure is designed to decrease unemployment. The honorable member for Newcastle said that the honorable member for Balaclava (Mr. Whittorn) tried to deny that there was a large-scale depression last year. Honorable members opposite should be careful that they do not talk people into a state of depression. I do not deny that there was a recession and that unemployment rose to too high a level. However, the measures we have adopted are designed to overcome this state. The honorable member for Newcastle said that we had a large depression last year. I do not think any figures were kept during the depression days of the ‘thirties, but I have some very vivid memories of those days. I am sure that most honorable members in this House would remember them, because at that time they would be at an age when it would be vital for them to be in employment. It has been said that the rate of unemployment at that time was about 30 per cent. That figure probably could be juggled around, but most certainly unemployment did not reach that percentage last year. I think the highest rate of unemployment in Queensland last year was about 6 per cent. The Australian average at present is about 3 per cent.
– It is not-
– Of course, people like the honorable member for Wills will always say that we are prepared to have 3 per cent, or 4 per cent, of unemployment. But we on this side of the House all realize that the unemployed man does not care whether there is 3 per cent., 2 per cent, or 4 per cent.; he is 100 per cent, unemployed. Honorable members on this side of the House are just as conscious of the problems of the unemployed as are Opposition members. After all, we are all member* of Parliament and we are all here because of the votes of a majority of electors in our electorates. We all realize that one issue in an election is the degree of unemployment in the community. It is ridiculous for Opposition members to say that we on this side of the House want to encourage unemployment, that we want to create a pool of unemployed.
– Do you mean to say that you did not mean to cause unemployment?
– Did the Minister for Labour and National Service say-
– Honorable members opposite should not spend their time in this House referring to what this Minister said or what that member said. The comment of the honorable member for Parkes (Mr. Haylen) has been quoted more than has any other comment in this House. During the debate on a bill concerning rehabilitation, he said that 5 per cent, of unemployment was inevitable. I do not say that he now believes that 5 per cent, of unemployment in the community is desirable.
– You have it now.
– That is not so.
– In my own State, it is 2.5 per cent. If I talk about my own State, some honorable member will say that I am speaking about it only because an election will be held there on Saturday.
– Of course!
– Of course, and I will speak about it too.
– This has you worried.
– I am not worried about it at all. I think the results on Saturday will surprise even you.
What is the purpose of the bill? Members on this side of the House speak about the additional £7,500,000 that is being made available to the States; Opposition members speak about unemployment in the building industry. I remind the House that the purpose of the bill is to authorize the raising of this money and to ensure that it is made available to the States. The Commonwealth has no power to direct the States as to the particular housing purpose for which the money will be used. After consultation with the States, the Commonwealth can suggest that a certain percentage be allocated to building societies or that a certain amount be used to build homes for defence personnel. If honorable members will read the Minister’s second-reading speech they will see that all these matters are provided for.
– Don’t forget that the Government is using the printing press too.
– I will make this speech myself, if you don’t mind.
– Order! There are too many interjections.
– This money will be allocated, of course, in the proportions in which most of these allocations are made. My own State, Western Australia, will get £706,000. No one would refuse this grant, of course, but I do not think there is a need in my State for any great amount, or for any greater amount than will be allocated to some of the other States, or even for a grant on the basis of population levels as compared with those in other States. I say this because we have not the housing problem in Western Australia that exists in some of the other States. I think it was the honorable member for Moore (Mr.
Leslie) who pointed out that the housing problem in Western Australia has been almost overcome. I do not think any honorable member, on either side of the House, would suggest that there can ever be a time when every housing need will be satisfied. It is just not possible. The honorable member for Newcastle seems to think that this can be achieved by the Commonwealth Government giving £200,000,000 or £300,000,000 or £400,000,000 to the States for housing purposes, but I remind him that there is a limit on the availability of materials and manpower.
– There is plenty of manpower.
– And there is no shortage of materials.
– I have not disputed that. Let me repeat slowly, for the benefit of the honorable member for Wills and the honorable member for Shortland, what I just said. There must be a limit to the amount of money you can give to the States for housing because there must be some limit to the amount of manpower and materials available. I should imagine that if you have too much money available for housing, you will reach a stage at which contractors will be vying for labour and offering special inducements to workers to go from one building project to another.
– And there will be no more unemployment.
– That is another point. I am glad to see that the honorable member for Oxley has a little more intelligence than some of his colleagues. If we reach the situation I have envisaged we will find that labour costs will go up because of competition, and the cost of housing will also go up. No one on either side of the House wants that to happen. If we get to the stage at which everybody who needs housing is provided with a house or a flat, and there is no waiting list at all, then there will be thousands and thousands of unemployed building trades workers. There must be, of course, a continuing demand because of natural increase of population.
– I never realized before that I was so inept and needed so much assistance. Isn’t this magnificent! Fellows who have been here two weeks are making speeches for me. I wish they would write them down and send them to me; then I could either read them or have them incorporated in “ Hansard “. The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden) is still trying to interject. I must say that he is of great assistance to one of his colleagues who wants to make a speech at 8 o’clock to-night. If the honorable member keeps interjecting, his colleague will realize his ambition.
This money that is being made available for the States will assist in many ways. Because I know that Opposition members expect me to say something about Western Australia on account of the imminence of an election in that State, and because I know they expect me to say what a wonderful government the Brand Government is, 1 feel it would be a pity to disappoint them.
– Tell us why Menzies did not go to Western Australia.
– 1 will tell you something about that, unless I am ruled out of order.
– Order There are too many interjections. The honorable member is entitled to make his speech in his own way. I ask other honorable members to co-operate with the Chair.
– Thank you, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Let me tell the honorable member for Newcastle that there were three Commonwealth Ministers in Western Australia last week, as well as all Liberal and Country Party members of the Commonwealth Parliament with electorates in Western Australia. Just to connect my remarks with this bill, let me say that they all spoke about bousing. They were in various electorates. The Minister for the Interior (Mr. Freeth) was in his own electorate, and the Minister for Civil Aviation (Senator Paltridge) and the Minister for Territories (Mr. Hasluck) were in their electorates. The electorate of the Minister for Civil Aviation covers the whole State, of course. I attended sixteen meetings that were held last week in support of Liberal and Country Party candidates.
– That is good news!
– I can remember the honorable member for Parkes saying, two months before the 1958 election, that I had such a terrific campaigner opposing me that I would lose. However, my majority increased from 1,000 to 7,000. I thank the honorable member for his interjection, because it provides just another indication of the certainty of victory for the Liberal Party candidates in the three State divisions in my electorate. When the Western Australian people go to the polls on Saturday they will show that they realize that in the field of housing they have had a much better deal than have the people in the other States.
– Because of the efforts of a Labour government.
– YOU are wrong again. If you keep interjecting you must be right some time. Even you must be right eventually.
– Is it true that the Hawke Government-
– 1 think the honorable member for Newcastle has been looking at my notes, because he is giving me wonderful opportunities to lead in on points that I want to make. [Quorum formed.)
I was talking about the housing situation in Western Australia. The honorable member for Newcastle said something about a Labour government. During the last three years there has been a Liberal government in office in Western Australia. In that time the basic wage has increased by about 15 per cent., prices of materials have gone up by about 10 per cent., but the cost of homes built by the Western Australian Housing Commission has remained practically static. I do not think this has occurred anywhere else in Australia. This has a twofold advantage; not only does the cost of individual homes remain at a reasonable level, but more homes can be built for the same amount of money. That is simple arithmetic.
A good deal has been said during this debate about the number of people waiting for homes. Astronomical figures have been quoted with regard to each State. I realize that a person who wants a home is in dire need, but I must say that various speakers have juggled the figures to their own advantage. In Victoria the State housing authority has taken the trouble to examine the waiting list, with some amazing results. I feel that if the same action were taken by housing authorities in other States a similar trend would appear. At 30th June, 1960, there were 17,233 applications for tenancies listed. During the year 9,091 applications were received, making a total of 26,324. The housing authority then sent a questionnaire to all applicants, and as a result it was able to strike off the list 7,084 applications, because people did not reply or failed to keep appointments or had their applications disallowed for other reasons. In other words, there was a false figure, which contained an error of about 40 per cent., showing the number of people on the waiting list. During the year the housing authority allotted 4,816 tenancies, and so at the end of the year there were only 14,424 outstanding. This was a decided improvement on the previous figures. If the housing authorities in other States would do as was done in Victoria, I am quite sure that honorable members would not then be able to cite the astronomical figures that have been mentioned during this debate.
As I said earlier in the debate, and as the honorable member for Moore also said, the housing problem in Western Australia has been practically completely solved. In that State there is accommodation available. The housing authority has a waiting list of applicants. However, applicants are becoming selective. If, for example, the State Housing Commission offers a home in the suburb of Brentwood, an applicant may say, “ I prefer to wait for a home in suchandsuch a suburb because I want to live close to my work “. It is very good and very convenient to live close to one’s place of work, but if applicants may be selective to that extent one cannot say that there is a severe housing crisis. Those honorable members who know the metropolitan area of Perth will recall that the distance from Perth to Fremantle is only about 12 miles and that from Perth to Midland Junction only about 8 miles. There are 4,000 people who want accommodation in Perth, 600 in Fremantle and 90 at Midland Junction.
I remember the circumstances that existed when I first got out of the Royal Australian Air Force. If I wanted to make political capital out of the situation, I could say that at that time there was a Labour government in the federal sphere and a Labour government in the State sphere and that it was the fault of those governments if a person who wanted a house could not get one. However, I am not foolish enough to say that. During the war, private building ceased and, quite obviously, the waiting list could not be eliminated and the lag overtaken for a long time. I and other ex-servicemen were prepared to put up with any sort of conditions if we could only get accommodation.
– You could not get it.
– That is so. I was prepared to live in a garage at one stage.
– You should have more human understanding.
– It is very difficult to make the honorable member understand anything. He reads a book, has a sleep, wakes up and then gets an inspiration. Probably, he has interjected during four speeches before mine and has not even realized it. The honorable member appears to be far too fond of the sound of the bells. I think that he imagines himself back in the past somewhere and thinks he is jumping out of his corner.
The housing problem has been solved in Western Australia, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I am sure that when the people of that State go to the polls on Saturday next this will be one of the deciding factors. The honorable member for Barton (Mr. Reynolds) has mentioned the cost of water in Western Australia. I have seen a magnificent pamphlet on the subject - a pamphlet which might even have been prepared by him, because, obviously, it has been prepared by somebody who does not know the facts. The cost of water in Western Australia is now lower than ever before.
– Convince the people of Western Australia of that next Saturday!
– We shall see what happens on Saturday.
T support the bill because I believe that it will achieve the purposes set out in the second-reading speech made by the Minister for Air (Mr. Bury).
.- Mr. Deputy Speaker, I have listened with interest to the honorable member for Perth (Mr. Chaney). His remarks were doubtless designed to be entertaining, but he is just as sympathetic towards those who have a housing problem, and just as serious in his approach to the housing situation, as are all other members of this House.
At the outset, I should like to point out that a great catastrophe recently occurred in Victoria, when about 530 homes were destroyed. That was considered to be one of the worst catastrophes that had ever struck the State. 1 suggest that this Government’s credit squeeze was an even worse catastrophe, because it alone cost Victoria 10,000 homes. It is all very well for some honorable members to be inclined to be frivolous in their approach to housing. Debates on this subject in this House have been the most contentious of the debates that 1 have heard since I became a member of this place. These debates are so contentious because the housing situation is parlous and shocking. One can attribute a lot of the vandalism, a lot of the crime and a lot of the sickness and misery- in our midst to the shocking housing conditions that exist in Australia. Suffice it to say, Sir, that ali honorable members support this bill.
It has beeen claimed that the bill will stimulate the building industry. No doubt, it will in some small way help the State housing authorities throughout Australia. But I suggest that its effect on the private sector and on co-operative building societies remains to be seen. Co-operative building societies rely on banks and insurance companies for funds, and I suggest that they will be waiting rather anxiously for a break in the financial drought that they have been experiencing, not just since the application of the credit squeeze, but since about 1953. I think it is timely to point out that perhaps the gravest blunder committed by any Commonwealth Government since federation was the application of the credit squeeze by this Government without first ascertaining what effect it would have on key industries, particularly the building industry. That industry supports many others, and it can truly be said to be the hub about which the economy of this country revolves. Without a doubt, the building industry has been crippled by the credit squeeze, and I am of the opinion that measures of far greater magnitude than is envisaged in this bill will be needed to get the building industry out of the difficulties that it is experiencing to-day. Government speakers have told us that the building industry is in a bad way, and the Minister for Air (Mr. Bury) has told us that this bill is designed to stimulate that industry. But the salient fact remains, no matter how Government supporters try to pass the buck, that this Government was the architect of the plan that brought chaos and destruction to the industry.
It is true to say, Mr. Speaker, that the greatest problem with which this country has been confronted since the Second World War ended has been the tremendous lag in housing. This has been emphasized by honorable members on this side of the House and admitted by honorable members on the Government side. It is equally true to say that this Parliament, which controls the purse-strings of the nation, has the responsibility for trying to overcome the difficulties presented by the calamity which has befallen the building industry and for trying to put it back on its feet. We have to restore to employment those who have lost their jobs as a result of the Government’s measures, and we have to restore the country’s economy to a level at which we can have confidence in the future. Even prior to the credit squeeze, the housing shortage was described as the greatest social scourge in Australia. I do not think anybody would deny that the elimination of the housing shortage and the removal of this scourge are an objective of the highest priority - perhaps even of higher priority than are our defence needs.
Earlier speakers have delved into the problems of housing as they apply to the Stales, but it is not my intention to go into the figures relative to that aspect of the housing situation. No amount of argument can hide the fact that all States have an intense housing shortage which is due principally to the inadequacy of the funds that the States and particularly the housing commissions have received from the Commonwealth Government. Perhaps the most remarkable thing that emerges from a survey of housing is the fact that in spite of the large increase in our population by immigration and the demands of young people seeking homes, this Government was not able until 1961 to better the 1951 building figure, and then the improvement was only about 3,000 homes. It took ten years for the Government to make that progress! In New South Wales there is a shortage of something like 90,000 homes while in Victoria it is in the vicinity of 58,000 homes. Those figures indicate the efforts that this Government has made to overcome the housing shortage. The result of those efforts has fallen far short of the mark. Nothing has been done to reduce the lag and now, as a result of the credit squeeze, the deterioration in the building industry is greater than ever before in our history.
Honorable members on the Government side have suggested during this debate that we of the Opposition would regiment people into homes in housing commission areas. That is a purely political suggestion which has been made to draw the fire away from the Government’s own folly. Honorable members opposite made themselves party to the credit squeeze which has ruined the building industry. Now in an effort to escape the penalty of their folly they state that the Labour Party would regiment people into housing commission areas. Nothing is further from the truth. The Australian Labour Party believes in the freedom of the individual to choose his place of abode and in his right to purchase a home on a reasonable deposit, at low interest rates and on terms with which his pay envelope can cope. We on this side of the House have been telling the Government this at least for as long as I have been here, but the Government has failed to heed us. We resent the fact that the home seeker is legally robbed in the process of obtaining a home.
While on the subject of criticism which has been levelled at us, let me refer to the honorable member for La Trobe (Mr. Jess), who stated that all honorable members know the extent of the housing problem in this country. That is true. But it is completely untrue for the honorable member to say that Labour opposes housing co-operatives.
– Did he say that?
– Certainly he did. If the honorable member extends his research a little deeper he will find that the establishment of housing co-operatives has been one of the platform planks of the Australian Labour Party and of the industrial movement for many years. In fact, the establishment of housing co-operatives has been called by an opponent one of the socialistic planks of the Labour Party’s platform. But to-day honorable members on the Government side find it fashionable and convenient to support what they termed not so long ago a socialistic venture. When accusing the Opposition of wanting to force people to live in housing commission settlements the honorable member for La Trobe said that the situation had almost reached the point of being degrading. He should go to some of the housing commission areas and ask the people there whether they have felt degraded in accepting a home. I can assure him that they have been happy to have a roof over their head.
I say with some pride that thousands of people thank God that the Australian Labour Party had the vision to set up housing authorities. Think of conditions to-day even with housing commissions operating, and think of what conditions would have been if the Australian Labour Party had not had the vision to set up those authorities! The honorable member for La Trobe condemned housing commission homes. What does he support? Does he support the Camp Pell kind of emergency housing which was so prevalent during the term of office of this Government? Those areas have been described by church leaders of all denominations as running sores on humanity.
– Which government got rid of Camp Pell?
– A Labour government in Victoria under Mr. Cain got rid of Camp Pell. You cannot deny that.
The need for housing commission homes would be eliminated to a very large degree if the legal robbery which is practised upon people seeking homes were overcome by the provision of long-term housing finance - the very thing which has been advocated by every member of the Opposition and, incidentally, by the honorable member for La Trobe. The honorable member read a statement by Mr. C. H. Bennett, secretary of what is known as the Building Industry Committee for Long-term Low-deposit Housing Finance. The “Sun” of 9th February, 1962, over twelve months after the imposition of the credit squeeze, carried the following report: -
Start new bank for housing, builders say.
A National Housing Banking Corporation should be set up’ to help home builders, a building industry committee said in a report released today. The committee is the Building Industry Committee for Long-term Low-deposit Housing Finance. It has just completed a twelve-month survey.
The committee said that the corporation should encourage uniform interest rates and uniform maximum loans for housing throughout Australia, assess the flow pf finance required by each State, conduct and publish building research for all Australia, and raise housing funds and advise the Federal Government on the raising of funds in Australia and overseas, if necessary.
The secretary of the committee, Mr. C. H. Bennett, said last night that when the committee was set up the whole industry was suffering from the credit squeeze. The report is the result of twelve months research and will be forwarded to Mr. Menzies.
The final paragraph of the newspaper article was in these terms -
The low cost home buyer today has to commit himself to financial arrangements that are seriously out of step with his capacity to pay and there is a real danger that defaulting on quite a large scale will result if appropriate action is not taken.
That report, particularly its last paragraph, states exactly what the Opposition has been telling the Government during the six years I have been here. The report gives further figures under the heading, “ How prices rose “. It says -
The cost of low-priced building blocks in the metropolitan area has risen by 325 per cent, since 1952.
That is, during the life of this Government. The report continues -
The Building Industry Committee for Long-term Low-deposit Housing Finance said this in its report.
The cost of average-priced homes has risen by 48 p.c. and the home plus building block by 56.8 p.c. The deposit needed for an average-priced home on a low-priced block has increased from 10 p.c. for a War Service home in 19S2 to 35.3 p.c.
The deposit has increased from 10 p.c. to 34.4 p.c. for a co-operative bousing society buyer; 25 p.c. to. 39.8 p.c. for a State Savings Bank buyer, and 32.3 p.c. to 45.3 p.c. for a Commonwealth Savings Bank buyer. “The young couple of to-day. have to save two to three times the amount of the deposit that the young couple of 10 years ago had to save”, the report said. “And the period of saving has been doubled and in some cases trebled.”
This Government set out to control inflation. There is an indication of how it has controlled inflation. These conditions are the real reason why people are seeking bousing commission homes. I will say more on that later when dealing with the report of the Victorian. Housing Commission.
There is no regimentation, no attempt to force people to go into housing commission homes, other than economic regimentation. This condition has been brought about by the economic policies of this Government. Honorable members opposite accuse the Australian Labour Party of advocating regimentation. I remind them that people who live in glass houses should not throw stones. The honorable member for La Trobe queries the need for housing commissions. Let us look at the conditions brought about by the credit squeeze, for which the honorable member voted in this House. I shall read to the House a report of a statement recently made by Mr. G. P. Peters, the president of the Building Trade Suppliers’ Association of South Australia. It reads -
The president of the Building Trade Suppliers’ Association of South Australia, Mr. G. P. Peters, said to-day that more than 20 Adelaide building contractors bad “gone broke” in the past three years, leaving debts totalling more than £1,250,000.
In the most recent big failure an Adelaide building firm, engaged mainly on government work, owed creditors about £200,000, he said.
Many small sub-contractors who bad worked industriously for many years bad lost their life savings.
It is no good arguing that the conditions described by Mr. Peters are not identical with those in the building industry in every State. It has not given me any pleasure to read out that report. 1 do not think it gives any member of this House any pleasure to hear of such conditions. We all realize that this is a tragic state of affairs which should not exist in this country.
There have been some peculiar twists by Government supporters during the debate. First, they told us that the credit squeeze was designed to reduce building prices. The honorable member for Perth made some reference to this. My attitude is that the intention of the Government may have been good, but its methods were rotten. The overall effect of the credit squeeze, as has been indicated by Mr. Peters, has been a wave of bankruptcies in the building industry. This has created a loss of confidence among people who want homes, and has generated buyers’ resistance. The prices of homes have tended to soar even higher. This is a natural sequence when competitive builders are forced out of the industry as the small builders were forced out. They were not able to get money, and found themselves not only losing their occupations, but also their homes, through bankruptcy. That is what must happen when competition is reduced through the small builder being forced to the wall, leaving the field wide open for the big man - indeed, leaving it wide open for the exploiter.
The honorable member for La Trobe 6aid -
Honorable members opposite should understand that if we ever reach saturation point in homebuilding there will be greater unemployment and greater trouble than we have ever seen before.
I think it is to the advantage of the industry and of the people of this country to work out a target for the building industry.
That sounds very good. Members on this side of the House do not believe in working out targets. We say there is a want in this country, and we should go our very hardest to relieve that want. I think I would be correct in saying that the members of this Government could go down in history as the worst marksmen ever to occupy the treasury bench. They have had twelve years in which to practise hitting the target for housing, and have not once succeeded in scoring a bull’s eye.
The honorable member for Fawkner (Mr. Howson) said, “At any rate, I hope there will always be a shortage of homebuilding “. This aspect was also referred to by the honorable member for Perth. It is about time that the Government realized that there will always be a shortage of housing. It will be a sad day if we ever catch up with the housing shortages in this country. Government supporters, including the honorable member for Mallee (Mr. Turnbull), who is interjecting, should have realized, before they voted for the credit squeeze, that the demand for housing is insatiable. Every child bom in this country is a potential home seeker.
It is almost eighteen months since the credit squeeze was introduced, and despite all the statements by Government supporters it is only now that they have found out the real cause of the housing problem which, they say, is finance. Only after all this time - almost eighteen months after the credit squeeze was applied - when the building industry has been forced to its knees, has the Government brought down a bill to do something to correct the situation. Opposition members have been telling the Government that the root cause of all the trouble in the building industry has been lack of money. The honorable member for Newcastle (Mr. Jones) spoke of building materials and other ingredients of the building industry. The only ingredient for homebuilding that has been missing has been finance. We have the men and the materials, and the money also has been available - but at a price which the low income group could not afford to pay. Money for homebuilding is money which people have to buy - and they cannot afford to buy it at the price at which it has been offering under this Government. The 1961 report of the Victorian Housing Commission brings this out very clearly. It says -
The demand for accommodation - 14,424 applications held at 30th June, 1961, still greatly exceeds the number of dwellings units the Commission can build with its reduced finance.
There we have the word “ finance “ coming in immediately -
This year 2,217 dwelling units were completed. With the steadily rising costs aggravated by the recent increase in interest rates, latest rents are ranging from £5. 4s. to £6. 5s. which is beyond the means of the Commission applicants. In an endeavour to grant some relief, the Commission is considering a scheme for averaging all rents on an accommodation basis. This would result in these rents being reduced to approximately £4.5s. and the lower rents charged on dwelling units constructed in earlier low cost periods being increased.
The demand for the purchase of Commission houses on low deposits continues, 2,728 were sold for the year. Although good work is done by the Co-operative Building Societies and other institutions to meet the requirements of families anxious to purchase their own homes, the Commission stresses that the need of the low income group is not satisfied by these institutions as the deposits required are far beyond the potential of the average low income family in Victoria whose maximum available deposit lies in the £100 to £200 bracket
There is the Housing Commission of Victoria telling the Government exactly what we have told it over the years. In order to try to bring the rents within the reach of the pockets of the low income group it is going to rob Peter to pay Paul. What is going to happen? In trying to average out an accommodation basis for rents the commission is going to increase the low rents or those struck in the earlier low-cost periods and drop the rents of the people who have had to buy in periods when the price of accommodation has been very high.
We support the bill but emphasize also that we support co-operative housing societies. In fact, we support all measures designed to raise the living standards of the people. We believe that good housing is good living. We believe that many of the evils in this country can be removed by good housing. I say, too, that we will fight for the rights of the individual in spite of what the honorable member for Latrobe says. We will fight for the right of the individual to own his or her own home in any location where they desire to live. I say, also, that it was the Government and not the building industry which brought about the destruction and chaos in homebuilding and that the Government, through its methods of finance, is the root cause of this evil.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
– Mr. Speaker, I wish to make a personal explanation. The honorable member for Gellibrand misrepresented what I said by presenting out of its context my statement that there would always be a shortage of houses in Australia. I made that remark in answer to an interjection by the honorable member for Kingsford-Smith (Mr. Curtin). My purpose was to indicate the increasing demand for a higher standard of homes and the rapid rate of growth of population in this country. It was for those reasons that I made the remark and not for the reason attributed to me by the honorable member for Gellibrand, who, in the course of his speech, attributed statements to various honorable members on this side of the House and misinterpreted them.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Bill read a second time.
.- I wish to direct the attention of the committee to certain statements in the second-reading speech of the Minister for Air (Mr. Bury) when he introduced the bill. He said -
The minimum total amount to be provided for 1961-62 for private home building, mainly through building societies, will become £15,120,000. A balance of £35,280,000 for the erection of dwellings by the States will remain from the overall total of £50,400,000.
There the Minister terminated his speech. He did not mention what provision the Government intends to make for service housing and, whilst the Government may well have some intention in this direction, it has not been manifested here. This subject is of considerable importance to members of the armed services.
– I rise to order, Mr. Chairman. I submit that when an honorable member is dealing with the bill in committee he must speak to specific clauses. Surely, he cannot deal with the Minister’s second-reading speech.
– An honorable member is permitted to continue to show the relevance of what he is saying to the bill. At this stage, I ask the honorable member for Oxley to relate the remarks he is making to the clauses of the measure.
– My point is that under the act 30 per cent. of the money provided by the Commonwealth goes to the States for the provision of private housing, mainly through building societies. The other 70 per cent. is utilized by the State housing commissions, and of that proportion a maximum of 5 per cent. can be provided for service homes. In the past it has been the practice of this Government to provide a certain amount of money for service homes. The service homes situation is particularly acute, and as the result of inquiries it has been brought before the Parliament by honorable members on this side of the chamber. The Deputy Leader of the Opposition (Mr. Whitlam), in particular, has been very active in the defence of servicemen and their interests in war service housing. It has been revealed that there is a lamentable shortcoming in the production of war service homes. When we consider the figures for 1959-60-
– On a point of order, Mr. Chairman. Which particular clause are we dealing with?
– I remind the honorable member for Fawkner that the committee agreed to consider the bill as a whole. The honorable member for Oxley is at the moment relating the matter of his remarks to the clauses of the measure, and he is in order.
– In 1959-60, there were 5,287 homes sought by servicemen and homes were allotted to 3,170. At the end of this period there were over 4,000 applications outstanding. In 1960-61, the number of home’s outstanding was nearly 4,000. I point to the situation in the Oxley electorate which contains the Amberley Air Force Base and on the borders of which there is the Wacol military camp. Many servicemen from these establishments are forced to accept the first accommodation offered to them because of the housing shortage. In many cases it is sub-standard and certainly would not be tolerated under normal conditions. Further, the subsidy which the Department of Defence is prepared to pay on rentals for servicemen who occupy these homes encourages sub-standard housing, and rental rates for the general public in the district are grossly inflated. While members of the services can bear heavy rentals of £8 or £9 a week for accommodation certainly not worth more than £4, the result is that rentals are grossly inflated for the general public. So not only is the Government paying out heavily in this way, but the general public in the area is also forced to suffer. I am informed that the Air Force has a peculiar system at Darwin, where, off arrival, members of that service enter a sub-standard type of dwelling. This is typical of the poor type of accommodation provided. If they are there long enough they step up into a slightly better class of dwelling and, over a lengthy period, they can reach accommodation which is of a fairly good standard provided that they are not transferred, but by the time they reach that accommodation they are usually ready for transfer. This is the type of criticism that members of the armed services are expressing to me.
I would like to know the Government’s attitude. Perhaps the Minister for Air (Mr. Bury) can inform the committee whether the Government proposes to make any money available for servicemen’s homes, and, if so, how much. How many homes will be erected as a result of this money being provided? Can the Minister advise the committee how many applications for service housing will then be left outstanding? Is it-proposed, as an act of policy, to overcome the lag in service housing which has existed for many years and which has shown very little improvement. Will the Minister state the amount expended for the financial year 1960-61 and the estimated amount to be expended for 1961-62 in subsidies on rental payments by servicemen? These points are very important to the people whom they affect - the servicemen. Just because these men have joined the armed services they should not forfeit their rights as citizens. They are entitled to some consideration. They are placed in particularly uncomfortable situations because they are subject to transfer all over the country at short notice. It is often very difficult for them to obtain accommodation. The Government has an obligation to provide suitable housing so that they will not have to suffer the indignity of living in sub-standard conditions.
– The honorable member for Oxley (Mr. Hayden) has just raised a number of questions which, by some vast stretch of imagination, could be related to the subject under discussion, but I do not propose to debate service housing fully on this occasion. The honorable member referred to the fact that a subsidy is paid for the housing of servicemen in his area. Of course, the payment of this rent subsidy is not confined to the armed services. It applies to all members of the Public Service who are transferred to certain areas and who cannot obtain accommodation for a fairly low proportion of their salaries. On the whole, this subsidy is an important aid to servicemen, as it is to public servants generally, in obtaining accommodation.
Of course, if a tenant’s capacity to pay is raised by one means or another, his rent also is liable to rise. That is almost selfexplanatory, particularly when it is applied to a small area such as Ipswich and other places in which the services are situated or to which public servants have to go. I presume that the honorable member would not suggest that this subsidy should be removed. If it were removed the difficulties of servicemen and of public servants would be greatly intensified.
The subject of service housing is always a difficult one. In the last four or five years, in the Royal Australian Air Force, and presumably in the other services, a programme has been put into force and inroads have been made into the problem. That is not to say that the problem is solved nor that it is likely to be solved in the immediate future. But, within a reasonable time, it will be solved. I repeat that this is not the proper occasion on which to canvass the whole ambit of the housing of servicemen.
Sitting suspended from 6 to 8 p.m.
.- Before the sitting was suspended, 1 had been asking the Minister for Air (Mr. Bury) a number of questions with relation to the purposes of this bill and, much to the surprise of the Opposition, the Minister seemed to be taken aback. It was apparent to us that he had not sufficient knowledge of the matters I had raised to answer the question I put to him. This is all the more amazing to us when we remember, first, that he is the Minister who introduced the bill and, secondly, that he, as Minister for Air, is responsible for the administration of one of the services directly concerned with one of the questions I raised - the amount of money that the Government intends to provide for the housing of service personnel. First, in a rather devious manner, the Minister endeavoured to deflect the attack from his department, and to cloud the fact that he was not able to answer my questions, by suggesting that I had proposed that the system of subsidized rentals for service personnel be abolished without any additional provision for housing. I never at any time suggested such a thing. My proposal was very clear. I asked quite clearly what the Government intended to do to overcome the lag which it had allowed to occur, and so eliminate the need for subsidizing rentals. I was seeking to promote the best interests of members of the services, of members of the
Royal Australian Air Force in particular who, in many cases, are forced to accept sub-standard accommodation.
Another point put by the Minister was that the matter which I raised had no bearing on the question under discussion. I submit that it has a very important bearing On the matter, and I direct the Minister’s attention to clause 4 of the bill, which reads -
Moneys borrowed under this Act shall be issued and applied only for the expenses of borrowing and for the purpose of making advances to the States in pursuance of section four of the Housing Agreement Act 1961.
Section four of the Housing Agreement Act 1961 says, inter alia -
The Treasurer may, out of moneys lawfully available for the purpose, make advances to a State in accordance with the agreement executed in pursuance of the Housing Agreement Act 1956 as amended by an agreement executed in pursuance of this Act.
Sub-clause (1.) of clause 7 of the agreement sets out the position quite clearly. It reads -
Of the advances made to a State in a financial year which pursuant to clause 6 of this agreement are to be used for the erection of dwellings by the State, the State shall set aside for the purposes of clause 13 of this agreement such portion not exceeding five per centum as may be specified by the Minister from time to time or such portion greater than five per centum as may be agreed from time to time between the Minister and the appropriate Minister of the State.
This measure definitely deals with the provision of financial assistance for homes for service personnel. I asked the Minister those questions earlier because I was earnestly and sincerely seeking information for the guidance of the large number of service personnel who reside in my electorate. These people are entitled to know what the Government is doing to safeguard their welfare, but the Minister refuses pointblank to answer my questions.
– He does not know.
– Apparently he does not know, but I would have thought that in the two hours since the suspension of the sitting he would have had sufficient time to bring himself up to date. His refusal to answer is significant when we remember that the service administered by him, the Royal Australian Air Force, fares worst of all the services, as is disclosed by the fact that on 22nd August, 1961, the then Minister for Air stated that of the 2,303 Royal Australian Air Force personnel who had applied for homes only 1,122, or less than half, had been allotted homes. All I ask is that the Minister supply the information I have requested for the edification of the general public.
Bill agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment; report adopted.
Bill read a third time.
Debate resumed from 7th March (vide page 520), on motion by Mr. McMahon -
That the bill be now read a second time.
– As the Minister stated when introducing the bill, it is designed to increase the rate of the stevedoring industry charge from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 4d. per man-hour, the increase to take effect as from the beginning of April. In outlining the purposes for which the money is being raised, the Minister said -
The stevedoring industry charge finances the operations of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. These include payments of attendance money and the payment - in effect on behalf of all employers in the stevedoring industry - of annual leave, long service leave, sick leave, and statutory holidays for waterside workers. The charge is a levy on man hours worked and is paid by employers in the industry. 1 should have thought that a bill as important as this one would have been introduced in a different manner from that in which this measure has been brought before us. I should have thought that when it was proposed to ask the Parliament to increase the charge on an industry the Minister introducing the measure would have invited the Parliament to examine what has happened in connexion with this charge. 1 should have thought that he would have explained why it has been necessary to increase the charge from the record low of 2id. at one stage to the proposed 3s. 4d. I suggest it might even have been competent for the Minister to tell us why this one industry, which is so vital to the economy of the country, should be required to carry the total burden of the charge. He might also have given us some indication of what the actual cost to the industry will be when the new rate of 3s. 4d. an hour applies.
The Minister has said blandly that there is to be a transfer of 9d. a man-hour which was normally collected through the employers for the fund, but that in point of fact the increase will be only Id. Nevertheless, if the Parliament is to endorse this legislation, the Minister might have been expected to tell the House whether the Government believes that the measure is justified. If we take the year 1961 as a barometer, it appears that the total collections under this bill will exceed £5,000,000 a year. In the circumstances, it is the responsibility of the Parliament to analyse the effect of this measure when we are dealing with an industry that is so important to the national economy.
Collections for the year ended 30th June, 1961, under the Stevedoring Industry Charge Act totalled £3,844,499. If one takes the collections at the new rate when lOd. a man-hour is added - leaving aside what the Minister said about the transfer of 9d. - the total contribution will be in excess of £5,250,000. The Parliament is being asked to pass legislation which will increase the stevedoring industry charge by one-third. Everybody benefits from the work that is done on the waterfront whether they are wheat-growers or importers. Therefore, everybody has a responsibility in respect of what is necessary for the proper functioning of the industry, and I should have thought that the Government would have studied this matter well before burdening the stevedoring industry with an additional charge of £5,250,000. The Parliament is being asked to endorse this huge charge on one section of the transport industry. Surely the Government should have given some thought to whether this was the correct course to follow in 1962.
In case any of my listeners believe that the waterside workers are in the high wage bracket, I propose to cite some relevant figures, particularly in view of statements that. have been made about the increase in attendance money. In 1960-61, the average pay of the Australian waterside workers was £22 8s. lid., including payment for public holidays, sick pay and attendance money. The particular amounts in the total were £1 ls. 2d. attendance money, 6s. 5d. sick pay and lis. 9d. for public holidays. In Queensland, the average wage for a waterside worker in 1960-61 was down to £15 15s. 5d. Nobody should be under the impression that under this legislation we are handing out something to workers who are living in the lap of luxury. In Queensland last year, the average wage of the waterside workers was just about equal to the basic wage.
Let us consider the reasons why a stevedoring industry authority was set up. It is almost exactly twenty years since an attempt was made to bring order to the waterfront in Australia by the setting up of a stevedoring industry authority. Before April, 1942, stevedoring in Australia was controlled, first, by the interstate ship-owners; secondly, by stevedoring companies more or less closely connected with the shipping companies; and thirdly, by some companies which carried on their own businesses and did their own stevedoring such as the Broken Hill Proprietary Company Limited, timber merchants and others. When we consider the industrial arbitration system of Australia, we wonder why such an authority was ever set up.
When a crisis faced Australia following the outbreak of the war with Japan, the Labour Prime Minister of the day took action to meet the emergency. On the advice of a representative committee, of which Sir Owen Dixon was chairman, an organization known as the Stevedoring Industry Commission was ultimately set up and it functioned from April, 1942, almost twenty years ago. The commission was conceived as a war-time measure and it relied upon the almost unlimited powers provided under the National Security Act. It had one main objective and, in the words of the Labour Prime Minister, Mr. John Curtin, it was charged -
To keep the ships moving and secure all necessary tonnage to meet Australia’s needs, especially in the forward area.
At the conclusion of hostilities, the Labour Government was faced with a problem on the waterfront. The Labour Government knew very well that it could not allow the waterfront to revert to the conditions which existed before 1942. It realized that in an island continent, the policy of dog-eat-dog on the waterfront had to end if the country was to develop. Therefore, on 19th October, 1945, the Chifley Labour Government, through its acting Attorney-General, set up a commission to inquire into what should be done for the future since the National Security Regulations would soon expire. The Labour Government appointed Judge Foster and gave him a charter under three headings. They were -
That was the charter of the commission. We have to keep in mind the conditions on the waterfront twenty years ago and those that exist to-day in considering what Judge Foster reported to the Parliament through the Labour Government of the day. His Honour said -
Firstly it was an industry vital to the economic interests of the Commonwealth, involving foreign as well as local trade, and so affecting export industries and particularly primary industries.
What His Honour found in 1942 may be more important in 1962, if Australia is to trade successfully after Great Britain enters the Common Market. The next point made by His Honour was this -
Next we note that defence problems are closely associated with the industry, and will be in the’ future unless the Atom bomb has changed the face of war or the U.N.O. ended it.
His Honour made this third point -
Then again the Stevedoring industry is almost wholly casual and affects about 20,000 workers in Australia. Employment in it is subject to grave fluctuations, periodical, seasonal and intermittent, yet it demands the continuous existence of a reservoir of labour, withdrawals from which vary greatly according to these fluctuations.
Of course, His Honour did not know then that we would have a government of fits and starts that would remove import controls, put them on again, then take them off, leaving waterside workers to work overtime handling all the imports, and finally apply some other form of control in the hope that this would reduce imports. While all this has been happening, the work force has been subject to fluctuations caused by whatever action the Government may have taken. The fourth point made by His Honour was -
We should not lose sight either of the fact which the records show that this industry is secularly sensitive to industrial disturbances arising in other industries.
It is also particularly sensitive to its own disturbances. A question was asked in this chamber to-day about a stoppage that has taken place. The question was unfair and the answer was unfair. The stoppage took place in accordance with the practice on the waterfront, accepted by the owners and the authority as well as by the union. It arose from a matter that is causing very grave concern, because it affects the very “li ves of the men working in the industry. May I say that, as the Parliament has accepted the responsibility to cure the trouble, the Minister would be well advised to learn from the past. He should remember that when he introduced legislation that affected the lives of waterside workers, the union had not been consulted, the Australian Council of Trade Unions had not been consulted and the first that any one knew f the legislation was when it was introduced in this House.
– That is not true.
– Of course it is true and you know it is.
– You know it is not true.
– I know it is true, because I was serving on the interstate executive at the time and the records show that the first we knew of the proposal was when the Minister made his announcement in this House. If the Minister thinks that he can handle industrial matters in this fashion, he should revise his views. He should not introduce legislation affecting the lives of those working in the industry without consulting the leaders on both sides of the industry. The authority itself in this instance said it did not know what the Minister was doing. Now there is a fight as to who was wrong. The Parliament is entitled to legislate on matters affecting this industry, and it should learn from the past and realize that the first essential is to achieve co-operation between the parties. Having regard to the manner in which the legislation to which I have referred was dealt with, it is a wonder that we have not had more trouble on the waterfront than we have had. His Honour made a fifth point, which was -
There is too, a special urgency about many of the problems arising in this industry which do not arise or which only arise in a lesser degree in other industries.
His sixth point was -
The industry as well finds itself in a special constitutional position. The legislative power of the Commonwealth on industrial matters is in the main limited to Section 51 PI. (xxxv.) of the Constitution in these terms - “The Parliament shall, subject to this Constitution, have power to make laws for the peace order and good government of the Commonwealth with respect to - (xxxv.) Conciliation and arbitration for the prevention and settlement of industrial disputes extending beyond the limits of any one State.”
His Honour said further -
These words have been the subject matter of continuous litigation, the end of which has not yet been reached. There is, for most of industry, no direct legislative power, but this industry, at all events, insofar as it is an integral part of overseas and interstate trade and commerce, may call, in aid another source of legislative power in PI. (i.) of Section 51 of the Constitution in these terms - “ (i.) Trade aird commerce with other countries, and among the States.”
His Honour made this final point -
Still another factor differentiates this industry namely, that port facilities, harbours, rail transport and (in the main) wharves etc. are at present provided and owned by the States, and this fact has added difficulties to the task of industrial tribunals and in some respects placed the problems of the Stevedoring industry beyond their reach and that of employers and employees in the industry.
Before recommending that the commission should be continued in peace-time, His Honour took the opportunity to review briefly the awards affecting the industry. I do not wish to do that, but I shall requote his comment before he detailed the various awards that had covered the industry until 1942. He said -
I do not feel it necessary to write of the history of this industry - it has a long- record of turbulence and struggle stretching back into preArbitration Court days - a story of evil conditions, low wages, of unsatisfactory relationships, of bitterness and unrest. These have been referred to many times in the Judgments of the Arbitration Court. . . .
That was the state of the industry when a Labour government came to office in 1941. That was the history of the industry under Liberal governments. The employers were prepared to continue that record. His Honour went on to say -
Some of the fundamental causes of unrest and some of the social problems remain unsolved but, I think, are not insoluble. At least the conditions are amenable to great improvement.
This report would provide good reading for honorable members opposite. They should take the trouble to read it before they discuss this measure. His Honour recommended that the Stevedoring Industry Commission be set up. He said -
The alternatives presented are -
Continue the Stevedoring Industry Commission or return to the Arbitration Court - in each case with appropriate modifications. As has been seen, I have come to the conclusion that the former method is preferable. . . .
It is advisable, I think, to go back to the report of the commission and consider whether or not Labour’s legislation was effective. Let honorable members bear in mind the situation as described by His Honour. The authority was established in December of 1947, and the proportion of man-hours lost through stoppages in that year was 5.8 per cent. In the following year, after Labour had introduced its legislation, the figure had dropped to 2.2 per cent. In 1948-49, just before this Government took office, the proportion of man-hours lost through stoppages was down to 1.8 per cent. These figures will clearly show whether Labour’s approach to industrial problems has been sound or not.
It is interesting to read the debates on the legislation that was enacted by the Labour Government at the time of the establishment of the Stevedoring Industry Authority. I ask honorable members to listen to the passages that I propose to quote from “ Hansard “ reports of those debates. It will become obvious that the present Prime Minister (Mr. Menzies), who was then Leader of the Opposition, considered at that time that a much smaller amount than £5,000,000 was a considerable burden on the transport industry. This is what the right honorable gentleman had to say, as reported at page 312 of “Hansard” for 28th February, 1947-
But this award grants to the waterside workers a present of money, and imposes a completely wasteful burden on the transport of goods. This item, loaded by the special tax of which we had notice this morning, will probably cost approximately £400,000 a year. The high-water mark of absurdity regarding attendance money exists in two ports which are referred to as “ wireless “ ports. I had intended to refer to the Port of Melbourne, but as the honorable member for Grey (Mr. Russell) is a little anxious that Adelaide should not be overlooked, I am happy to tell him that Adelaide is also a “ wireless port “. That is to say, it is a port, like Melbourne, where, by courtesy of the Australian Broadcasting Commission, certain gangs of waterside workers are notified when they will not be required. This information is broadcast at night and again early the next morning. So, a member of a gang, resting uneasily in his bed, may learn from the radio that he is not required that day.
That is an indication of the attitude of the present Prime Minister towards waterside workers at that time.
– When did he say that?
– He said that in 1947, and. I presume his attitude has not changed much since then.
In the same debate the present Deputy Prime Minister (Mr. McEwen) said -
As the result of that superficial examination, I desire to offer several criticisms. I find it extraordinary that, for the first time in our industrial history, the machinery of arbitration will be financed by the particular industry in which the workers concerned are employed. That proposal is without precedent, and the principle underlying it is very curious and unjustifiable.
The passages that I have read show clearly the attitude of the present Prime Minister and his Deputy, at the time when the Labour Government attempted to do something towards settling the difficulties of the waterfront on the basis suggested by the report of Mr. Justice Foster.
I invite honorable members to bear in mind what I said earlier about the danger of introducing a measure of this kind. Let us consider the movements in the stevedoring industry charge since it was first imposed. In 1947 it was 4id. In 1949 it was reduced to 2id., increased to 4d. in 1951, and further increased to lid. in 1952. In 1954 it was fixed at 6d., and was increased in 1956 to ls. 7d., in 1957 to 2s., and to 3s. in 1958. On 1st July, 1959, it was reduced to 2s. 6d., and it has remained at that amount since that time.
The consideration of this matter should not be passed over lightly. Transport costs represent one of Australia’s national difficulties. Yet we have this legislation brought before the Parliament without any consideration having been given to the effect of imposing an additional burden of £5,250,000 on one section of the transport industry. That section will have to carry the whole of a burden which, I suggest, might properly be spread over the whole transport industry. It is completely, wrong, in my view, that the matter should be treated in this way. If you are going to increase the burden on one section of our transport industry by £5,250,000, you should have a very good reason for doing so, because there is a grave danger of an inflationary effect upon the whole national economy.
Let me now consider one or two other aspects of the legislation. It is true that as from July, 1959, annual leave payments to waterside workers became, by decision of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, the responsibility of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority. In the financial year ended 30th June, 1961, annual leave payments amounted to £1,094,174. These payments, prior to the decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission, were made from a trust fund controlled by the employers. This fund was built up by a self-imposed levy on the employers themselves, which amounted to, on the average, 9d. a man-hour.
Let me now refer to the increase of 4s. 3d. a day in attendance money payments. The Minister said, in his secondreading speech -
Further, as from 1st November, 1961, the daily rate of attendance money payable to waterside workers was increased by a decision of the Conciliation and Arbitration Commission from 24s. per day to 28s. 3d. per day. Attendance money payments have, for this reason and because of the falling off in shipping activity, risen considerably.
Let me remind the House that this falling off in shipping activity was the result of the Government’s credit squeeze, which resulted in a considerable diminution of imports. Another cause was the higher production standards of the waterside workers themselves. Let me further con sider this latter suggestion. I say again to the Minister that when introducing legislation of this kind, providing for an increase in the assessed charge, you should not leave the matter so that people in this House, or outside it, must find out for themselves the effects of, and the reason for, the increase of 4s. 3d. a day. After all, an increase from 24s. to 28s. 3d. is fairly steep, and surely we in this Parliament are entitled to have a clear statement about it from the Minister introducing the measure.
In addition to showing how the 4s. 3d. a day increase was arrived at, I want to prove as conclusively as possible that one of the reasons for the falling off of work on the waterfront is the increase in the work output of the waterside worker himself. Let us have a look at what was said in the judgment of the Commonwealth Conciliation and Arbitration Commission. I only wish that I had sufficient time to read the whole judgment. All it does is to restore a standard that was set in 1956. That is what the Minister for Labour and National Service should have said if he was to be fair to the waterside worker. I invite examination of the part of the judgment which I am about to read. It proves my case on both points. The judgment states -
In the year ending 10th June 19S6 the total tonnage of cargo handled by waterside workers was 24,518,000 and total man-hours worked was 38,821,000, the handling rate per man-hours therefore being .634 tons.
The corresponding figures for 1961 show that the total tonnage handled increased to 27,886,000, the total man-hours worked dropped to 30,269,000 and the handling rate rose to .921 tons for each man-hour.
– Was that with the same machinery?
– I thought I would draw that interjection.
– Do not fall for it.
– I shall not. I want it. Every time improved machinery is introduced, in the view of the Government there should be more profit for the owner and less working time for the worker. That is the difference between the Government’s thinking and ours. Listen to what *’ e commission said then.
– i am listening to the lot.
– The commi”.ion itself gives the honorable member his answer. The judgment continues -
There has been an increase in tons handled per man-hour of 45%. These figures of total tonnage include bulk-cargoes handled by waterside workers and Mr. Menhennit argued that such cargoes should be excluded.
That is what honorable members opposite think should be done. The judgment then goes on -
I do not agree when the question at issue is burden to the industry.
Let me pause there. That, again, illustrates the difference between the thinking on the Government si -le of the House and the thinking on our side. For once, the commission is on our side. It says quite bluntly that it does not think that the employers’ argument is a correct one. In other words, the commission says quite bluntly that the worker is entitled to some consideration for the additional output as a result of the introduction of the kind of machine he is using. Let me continue with the judgment, which goes on to say -
In any event when bulk-cargoes are excluded it appears that there has been a substantial increase in the handling of non-bulk cargoes since 1958. Prom 1958 to 1961 the tonnage of non-bulk cargoes increased. The hours worked on bulkcargoes are not available, but the total man-hours worked decreased while the tonnage of bulkcargoes increased by over 40%. In view of the increase in productivity since 1956 -
This is what the Minister should have reported to this House -
I am satisfied that to restore the real value of attendance money to its 1956 level will not impose an unfair burden on the industry.
In other words, all that the commission did when it increased attendance money by 4s. 3d. a day was to restore the standard of 1956, which is lower than the standard accepted by the full bench of the commission in assessing the present basic wage. After all, the full bench accepted the 1960 level in assessing the new basic wage. The waterside workers talked about by Mr. Justice Foster go back to 1956 for the assessment of the real value of their attendance money. If my friends opposite are happy about that, they are welcome to their happiness.
The Minister for Labour and National Service, in his second-reading speech, said -
Also, as from 6th June, 1961, the authority became responsible, pursuant to the 1961 Steve doring Industry Act for payments for long service leave to waterside workers.
To the end of 1961, some £322,000 was disbursed in long service leave payments. Further major commitments under this head will not fall due generally until 1964.
Then a remarkable passage appears. The Minister said -
The Government considers that it should aim at a rate which remains stable over a period - a rate which enables the authority to meet its day-to-day commitments, which can fluctuate markedly and with little warning, and to build up some reserves against commitments that are now clearly foreseeable.
I hope, Mr. Speaker, that this is not the final commitment of the Government with respect to this matter.
There was a stoppage on the waterfront to-day in all but three ports throughout Australia, and I think there will be stoppages at the others to-morrow. I crave the indulgence of your good self, Sir, and of the House to cite three cases to show why this sort of thing is taking place. If the Minister wants the complete details, I shall give them to him. The first case is that of a man who is now 65 years of age and who has served 40 years in the industry. He is a returned soldier and was registered in 1942. He transferred from the regular roster to the veterans’ roster in 1948. Despite the fact that he has served 40 years in the industry, he is denied long service leave under the measure that the Minister hurriedly rushed into this House.
The second case is that of a waterside worker who was registered in 1942. He broke his leg while performing stevedoring operations, and he transferred from the regular roster to the irregular roster in 1950. That was when he was within a shade of attaining eight years’ service. He has no entitlement to long service leave, because he has not accumulated eight years’ credits on a regular roster. Yet, in 1959-60 ten days’ annual leave and in 1960-61 seven days’ annual leave accrued to him. This is a man who was registered from 1942 to 1960 and who broke his leg while performing stevedoring operations. Yet he is still denied long service leave as a result of legislation rushed through by the Minister.
The third case is that of an exserviceman who worked on the Melbourne waterfront in 1937 as a second-preference waterside worker. In 1941, he joined the Waterside Workers Federation of Australia and on 16th December, 1941, he joined the Services. The system of registration was introduced in Melbourne on 28th January, 1942, six weeks after his enlistment He was discharged from the forces on 18th April, 1946, and resumed work in stevedoring operations on 7th May, 1946. When he applied for long service leave, he was informed that his war service from 1942 until 1946 did not count as qualifying service for long service leave. Is it any wonder that there was a stoppage on the waterfront throughout Australia to-day? If Government supporters who will follow me in this debate agree with the kind of legislation that deals with waterside workers in this way, let them say so.
I could not conclude my contribution to this debate better than by indicating what is thought overseas of waterside workers in Australia. This is the real test, because it is a comparison of Australian waterside workers with waterside workers throughout the world. Nobody will say, surely, that the Sydney “ Daily Telegraph “ is likely to lean over backwards to print a report that will help the waterside workers in this country. The “Daily Telegraph” of 7th March, 1962, carried this report with the dateline “ London, Tuesday “ -
A leading shipping analyst has praised Australian port handling improvements.
The analyst, W. G. Weston Ltd., said improvements in turn-around time for dry bulk cargo ships was “ striking.”
The word “striking” on this occasion is used in a different sense from that in which we sometimes regard it. The report goes on -
The latest survey showed that in the last six months of 1961 dry bulk cargo vessels calling at Australian ports recorded an average stay of 6.1 days.
The average in the last months of 1959 and the early months of 1960 was 10.5 days.
At the same time the position deteriorated in Japanese ports and in the Mediterranean zone, notably Italy.
Westons said the improvement in Australia was due partly to the greater number of coal loadings in the later period at “ the efficient port of Newcastle “. “ But full grain cargoes at both western and south-eastern ports seldom took much more than a week to load,” the survey said.
Slowest turn-around was in South American ports, 18.8 days.
In Japan the period was 15.5 days, Mediterranean ports 15.1 days, Britain 10.3 days, North American west coast 12.1 days, and eastern and gulf coasts 10 days.
I point out to honorable members that the heading to that report is “ Praise for Aust. Ports “.
I conclude on this note: All that the waterside worker in this country is getting out of that quick turn-round of ships is the kind of pay envelope to which I have referred - the equivalent of a weekly average of £15 15s throughout Queensland. Is that a fair go for a body of workers whose efforts can justify a report such as that which I have read? Clearly the waterside workers who are making such a great contribution to this country’s transport industry are not receiving justice.
We do not oppose the bill, but we say to the Minister and the Government that the time has arrived when it is questionable whether the industry can continue to carry on and make its contribution to our economy.
.- My friend the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) has entertained us with a history of the waterfront in Australia. In some respects it bordered on reality but in many respects it was completely erroneous. He was just as erroneous in some of the elements of the alleged history as he was in his own reasoning. His reasoning is that a specific section of Australian industry will have to carry a burden of £5,250,000. He completely overlooks the fact that a levy is already in existence. The £5,250,000 will be the total yield after the present levy has been increased by 10 pence or by only 10 per cent, more than the levy formerly imposed by the employers themselves. In addition, he completely misses the point that we have been free of the charge for three years because the extra amount which will be imposed by this legislation has not been collected since 1st July, 1959. So, the honorable member completely overlooked the basis of the charge. That was the first error in logic that he made.
I come now to his second error in logic. The charge is levied to pay for annual leave, attendance money, statutory holidays, sick leave, amenities on the waterfront, transport for waterside workers and a whole host of other benefits. No industry has better fringe benefits than has the waterfront industry of Australia. If the waterside workers were employed by individual employers the cost of all these things would be met by the individual employers, but because of the very nature of the industry and the fact that the men work for one employer to-day and a different employer to-morrow, it is in the interests of the waterside workers to. be entitled to these normal accretions to the award conditions, such as annual leave, sick pay and a most important addition, the attendance payment. It is in their interests that funds to meet the attendance payments be collected and disbursed. The authority is merely the vehicle for the collection and payment. This legislation imposes no greater burden than would be imposed if the industry were left in the jungle conditions which applied before 1942 and of which my honorable friend from Blaxland was so critical. There are his two major weaknesses in logic.
Then the honorable member went on with a galaxy of completely wrong statements which cannot be supported in any way. I have noted only the major ones. Let me deal with them. He claimed that it is the responsibility of Parliament to examine a piece of legislation like this and to have in mind the cost to industry. I have already pointed out that industry has been saved the cost for three years. As for the Parliament examining the legislation, as the honorable member himself pointed out there have been six or seven amendments to the amount of levy since 1947. It is worth reminding the House that on every occasion on which a piece of legislation of this kind has been -‘before it, the Opposition has said .that the Parliament should examine the legislation, but has not put forward a single argument to warrant such examination. Moreover it is worth reminding the House also that there has never been a division at either the second reading or the committee stages of the amending legislation.
Again to-night a member of the Opposition who sits on the front bench has said, “ We do not oppose this bill “. What does that mean? Of course the Opposition does hot oppose the bill. It cannot oppose the bill. Here the honorable member’s third error of logic crops up. If the Opposition opposed the bill and the Government failed to pass it, the waterside workers would be denied annual leave, attendance payment, sickness benefits and all the other fringe benefits which are accretions to the award.
The honorable member then stated that the average pay of a waterside worker in Queensland is £15 15s. a week. He included in that average all Queensland ports which embrace those B class ports which operate only for short periods to meet seasonal conditions. Surely the honorable gentleman knows that the average income of a waterside worker in A class ports such as Sydney and Melbourne is nearer £30 a week on an annual basis.
– That is completely wrong.
– The honorable member has only to look at the report, of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority which is before him. Then the honorable member stated that prior to 1942 the waterfront had operated under jungle conditions. The question then arises, “Why was an authority set up? “ Clearly the answer is that there had come into the industrial thinking of Australia realization of the necessity to provide for men in a casual industry who, by the very nature of their work, were offering for employment regularly and whose employment had many of the aspects of regularity, but who were casual employees in the sense of changing their employers almost daily. The honorable member then said that the criterion of this was expressed by Mr. Curtin, the wartime Prime Minister, who issued a directive in 1942 to keep the ships moving. The prime object in 1942 was to keep the ships moving. But what is the prime object to-day? It is to put no inhibition upon the trading capacity of this nation. So to-day we have a completely different position from that which obtained in 1942.
The honorable member then said that an unfair question was asked in the House to-day to which an unfair reply was given. He alleged that the question was unfair because a certain piece of legislation relating to long service leave had been introduced into this House last year without the knowledge of the people who were to be affected by it. The honorable member for Blaxland, of all people, should have known that Mr. Monk of the Australian Council of Trade Unions and officers of the Waterside Workers Federation were in this building meeting with the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) before the bill was introduced.
If he has any recollection of the Minister’s second-read’ing speech he knows that the Minister said that he had had those discussions, and that certain proposals in the bill had been changed in deference to representations to the Minister by the Waterside Workers Federation and the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
The honorable member then went on to talk about other things. He said it was a wonder that we had not had more trouble than we have had. The truth of the matter is that the great bulk of waterside workers want peace on the waterfront. They do not want jungle conditions. They want long service leave as an accretion to their award conditions. They have got the right to that leave now and, furthermore, have made good use of it. The figures respecting those who have taken their long service leave entitlement are quite illuminating.
Then the honorable member went on to give us a long story in which he said, by implication, that Labour Governments had achieved everything for the waterside workers. That is quite untrue, because every advance in the conditions of waterside workers has been granted through the arbitration system - attendance money, annual leave, sick pay and all the other conditions and amenities. He quoted a statement by the Prime Minister in relation to wireless call-ups for waterfront work. The honorable member should know, as almost everybody in Australia knows, that the Waterside Workers Federation fought bitterly against the whole concept of radio pickups - a system which is now an integral part of the waterside industry.
The honorable member also said that an impost of £5,250,000 on one section of the community would be inflationary. He seemed to find this true in logic, although I hope to point out that it is untrue in logic. And what of this statement that it would be inflationary? Neither he nor any member of his party had any concern about inflation only a few months ago, when they thought that by denying there was a boom they could gain a few votes for themselves at the general election.
He then went on to say that the increased standard of efficiency of the waterside workers themselves has brought about a falling off in the amount of work available on the waterfront. Let me remind the House of the tremendous resistance that the waterside workers put up to machinery handling methods on the waterfront. So strong was this resistance that in Queensland the Waterside Workers Federation lost the right, on a demarcation basis, to do certain work. That work went to the members of another union because the Waterside Workers Federation refused to have anything to do with bulk handling methods.
The honorable member then went on to give us an old story. He quoted from a judgment in which the court said that a worker was entitled to benefit from the increased efficiency brought about by machinery. He said, “ For once the court was on our side “. This is not the way to approach an arbitration court or commission, or the arbitration system generally. That is a system under which the arbitral authority is supposed to look at all the issues and reach a reasonable and proper decision on the facts before it. I believe that it does so. It is a well established principle of the arbitration commission that the worker is entitled to share in the benefits of increased production, and this is what has been happening throughout the whole of Australian industry. Let me bring this point out in particular reference to the waterfront industry, where this principle has been reflected in the increase of 4£d. per hour in marginal rates following the 1959 court decision, in the increase of attendance money and in the increase of 279. in the basic wage, in the period of which we are speaking - 1st July, 1959 to the present time.
Those are the matters that the honorable member for Blaxland brought into the debate and on which I wanted to comment. Let me now come to other aspects which I wish to bring before the House. The waterfront industry is certainly a turbulent industry. As long ago as about 40 years Mr. Justice Higgins, one of the great judges in the Australian arbitral system, described this as a turbulent industry, and his words have been repeated by many people. The casual nature of the industry has brought about a great deal of militancy. The jungle conditions which existed before the last war, to which the honorable member for Blaxland referred, in themselves brought about militancy. In the course of time those causes of friction have been eliminated, but the conditioning of the past has remained. So we now have an industry with very fine working conditions, with what I believe to be a good rate of pay and with amenities which coud not be challenged by any other industry, but which is still dominated by militancy of outlook. In this industry the past has conditioned the present
It is true that many of the advantages gained by the waterside workers have been gained very late. It was only in 1947 that this industry obtained for itself statutory holidays, sick leave and annual leave. It was only last year that it obtained long service leave, which other industries had enjoyed for many years. Militancy on the waterside is reflected by the state of the leadership in a particular place. You can go to individual ports and tell by the records of the various members of the Waterside Workers Federation what was the nature of the governing body of the union in that port at the time these waterside workers were admitted. This is true on the Melbourne waterfront. While Communists are in the leadership people who support Communist doctrines are admitted to the union. When the leadership is Labour Party leadership the people admitted to the union are those who are more inclined to the Labour Party’s point of view. A most important factor to-day is that there is still a great build-up of people seeking to be registered as members of the Waterside Workers Federation, and thereby to become entitled to work on the waterfront. The arbitral procedures that are the law of our land, and which are enshrined as our way of life, are those which should dominate the determination of conditions on the waterfront
I want to turn to some history which I believe is accurate, because I have studied the legislation and the debates concerning it. The first levy was in 1947. lt was introduced to finance the payment of statutory holidays and sick pay which had been granted by the Commonwealth Arbitration Court. The levy was then 4id. In 1949, it was announced to the Parliament that a surplus had built up in the fund, and that it was proposed to introduce legislation to reduce the levy to 2£d. In 1951, the then Treasurer, Sir Arthur Fadden, introduced legislation to increase the levy from 2£d. to 4d. He pointed out at the time that the money collected was to pay attendance money and provide cafeterias, transport of workers on the waterfront, amenities generally, and the administrative costs of the authority controlling the industry. He said that 2±d. was inadequate as a levy to cover the increased costs. In 1952, the levy was increased from 4d. to lid., to operate from 28th October of that year. This reflected increased costs and increased attendance money, the latter having gone up from 12s. to 16s. There was quite a debate on this measure, and the Government gave an undertaking that as soon as the existing deficit was eliminated the levy would be reduced. Sure enough, in 1954, the levy came down from lid. to 6d., to operate from 4th May of that year, in accordance with the promise given in 1952.
It is important, while considering those matters, to reflect upon the economic conditions of the time and on the way in which shipping turn-round in Australia had been affected by this series of moves. In 1956, to operate from 13th October, the levy was increased from 6d. to ls. 7d. This was reflected in increased costs generally but, most important, it reflected an increase from 3rd April, 1950, of attendance money from 16s. to 24s. That was an increase of 50 per cent, in that single item of attendance money; and it was also to provide for sick leave and statutory holidays. Then in 1957, to operate from 21st May, 1957, it was increased from ls. 7d. to 2s. Then in 1958 it was increased to 2s. 6d., until 1st July, 1959, but was to carry a surcharge of 6d. until that date and thereafter be 2s. 6d. It is from that figure of 2s. 6d. that this bill proposes to increase the levy.
It is interesting to find that that is the operative date - 1st July, 1959 - from which the Australian Stevedoring Industry
Authority had the responsibility of paying annual leave, whereas prior to that date the responsibility had rested on the individual employer. It may be, in retrospect, a pity that the amount was not left at 3s. instead of the surcharge evaporating and coming down to 2s. 6d. But in any event, what happened was that from 1st July, 1959, no levy was collected either by the shipowners or by the authority to meet the cost of annual leave; and that cost is approximately £1,200,000 a year. Prior to 1959- from 1947 when annual leave was first prescribed by the commission - the employers had ‘ levied themselves in order to pay the annual leave requirements. Then in May, 1959, the employers made an interim application to Mr. Justice Ashburner, who was considering the whole range of the award, to change the responsibility for payment from the individual employers to the authority.
It is most interesting to read the transcript of that application and to find the reasons for what was done. Let me mention a few of them. One of the reasons for which it was done was the great difficulty employers had in knowing how much the leave should be, because it operated on the basis of the man-hours worked. And when you get a port like Gladstone, which at certain times of the year has more hours in attendance money than hours worked, it makes a differential between Gladstone and other ports where the normal pattern of working operates. It is also true that at that time - as it still does to-day - the authority maintained all the records from which the entitlement to annual leave was worked out. When this application came before the commission Mr. Docker, the industrial agent for the Waterside Workers Federation, put up a merely formal objection to the application - “ formal “ is the only word which would describe it - and I think the decision given by the presidential member, His Honour Mr. Justice Ashburner, is worth reciting briefly. On 9th June, 1959, among other things he said - I think this is the apposite paragraph -
In my view the application should be granted. The reasons which actuated me in 19S6 in ordering that payment for holidays not worked and for sick leave should be made by the Authority rather than by employers apply to the matter of annual leave. In an award dealing with annual leave I would not impose obligations on “ employers “ vaguely, as is done in clause 3 of the existing annual leave order. I think it much more appro priate that payment should be made by the Authority, and I cannot see that waterside workers will, in any way, be prejudiced by the change.
I draw the attention of the House to the words used there by His Honour, “ I would not impose obligations on ‘ employers * vaguely “, because in this hearing the whole question arose as to whether there was any legal entitlement of waterside workers to annual leave payments. When this matter was put to Mr. Docker by the presidential member, Mr. Justice Ashburner, he sidestepped it completely and his words, as I recall them from the transcript, were “ These matters of annual leave have been worked out in a normal and proper fashion between the employers and the employees, as they ought to be “. That was according to Mr. Docker, and that is the situation on the waterfront to-day. The relationship between employer and employee ought to be proper and normal. I believe that with the assistance of legislation introduced last year by this Government that objective has been achieved and that the only great danger to peace on our waterfront and the development of our transport industries is statements that are not only untrue but also positively encouraging to turbulence on the waterfront. I support the bill very strongly.
.- Mr. Speaker, it has been rather pleasing to listen to the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) support the bill. His support for the measure implied that the shipping industry can carry a levy of 3s. 4d. for every man-hour worked; and there are considerable man-hours worked in the Australian stevedoring industry. According to the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority’s report for last year there are some 30,000,000 man-hours worked on the Australian waterfront annually, handling import and export goods. Therefore the Government supports the additional loading on this industry and the loading of the stevedoring industry levy has been accepted by all sections of the community as one of the grounds for the increase of freight rates by the conference lines.
The honorable member for Bruce, in replying to the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) started off by being an analytic gentleman, infusing logic into his argument. First he said that the honorable member for Blaxland was completely in error in saying that this levy could” be a burden of from £5,000,000 to £5,250,000 on the Australian people, exporters, or industry generally. I recall that eight days ago the conference lines increased their freight rates from Australia by 5 per cent. Glancing at an old newspaper clipping I note that in 1959 the freight rates for Australian goods were the highest charge against our overseas reserves, totalling over £100,000,000, and 5 per cent, of £100,000,000 is £5,000,000. Let us have some more logic. The honorable member - I notice in the left-hand corner of the House officials with a pile of stevedoring industry reports - said that waterside workers receive £30 a week, but, in fact, the authority’s report shows clearly that the average earnings of the waterside workers, with all the benefits mentioned, amount to £22 8s. lid. To deliberately distort a figure by 40 per cent, is symptomatic of the attitude of members on the Government side of the House. With his knowledge of the industry, and not forgetting his logic, the honorable member said that in 1947 ‘ a levy of 4d. was imposed by this Parliament to provide for sick pay and holiday pay. In fact Mr. Justice Ashburner awarded sick pay and holiday pay in 1956.
However, Mr. Speaker and gentlemen, let us get on to the facts of the case. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority was set up as a government authority to ensure the mobility of labour from employer to employer. Because of fluctuations in the industry, no employer could employ a permanent pool of labour. Because of personalities in the industry, some waterside workers would not work for a specific employer. If work was plentiful, a particular employer could wait for labour indefinitely if he was not considered a good boss. It was a Labour government which recognized its responsibility to ensure mobility of labour by means of a stevedoring industry authority. Only when the control of this country passed into the hands of the LiberalCountry Party coalition did the levies start to increase. I was going to make an analysis of the increases which the Government has introduced, but that has been done by the honorable member for Bruce. In line with its current economic thinking, because a small levy was imposed in 1947, the Government has proceeded, year after year, to load this industry with increased levies until to-day it is proposed that the levy should be 3s. 4d. per man-hour worked. At present, 30,000,000 man-hours are being worked every year. When will the Government realize that this cannot go on? It has been proved in succession in the Tate report, in the Basten report and in the Forster report that the conference lines, which control shipping for all exports of Australian goods, load the stevedoring industry charge on to freight rates. The Government, fully, aware of this, continues to introduce bill after bill increasing this levy without assuming any responsibility for the result. Thus, costs to exporters and importers are being increased because of the increase in freight charges.
It is time that the Government realized that it has to do something to control increases in freight rates if we are going to compete on world markets. Quite obviously, the introduction of this bill was instrumental in bringing about the 5 per cent, increase in freight rates which the Conference Lines demanded. As I shall presently show, there should have been a decrease in freight rates, but there has been an increase, and the levy is to go up to 3s. 4d. per man-hour. When will the Government realize that there has to be a new approach to this question?
The employees of the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority are public servants performing a public service in controlling the mobility of labour. No other section of industry is changed with the maintenance of a government department and its employees. The previous Minister for Labour and National Service, when introducing legislation to increase the stevedoring industry charge, said that one of the reasons for the increase was to pay superannuation to the authority’s staff. Why should the industry be inflicted with these continuous rises which are affecting all Australia as the ninth greatest trading nation in the world? This Government is continually burdening the exporter and the importer by its practice of increasing the levy which was introduced in 1947. It is time that the Government decided to subsidize the administration by the authority, to reduce the levy, and so to bring down freight rates.
I have here figures from the Stevedoring Industry Authority’s reports. In 1955 Australian waterside workers completed 40,358,012 man-hours. In 1961 they worked 30,269,218 man-hours, or 10,088,794 fewer than in 1955. Cargo handled in 1955 amounted to 24,919,000 tons; in 1961 it increased to 27,886,000 tons. The number of men employed in 1955 was 24,927; to-day the number is 21,589. In 1955 working visits of vessels to this country carrying out cargo to all ports of the world numbered 11,375. In 1961 they numbered 13,043. What is the reason for this phenomenon? Men on the waterfront worked 10,000,000 fewer man-hours and there were 4,400 fewer men. But they handled 2,967,000 tons more cargo! They handled 1,668 more visits by vessels! And what has been the result? Freights have gone up! In November, 1958, the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ published a report on freights as follows: -
WHARF SPEED-UP TO AID FREIGHTS.
Improved turn-round of ships in Australian ports was helping to keep down overseas freight rates, the Managing-Director of the P. and O. Company, Mr. A. J. N. Crichton, said to-day. He said no increases in freight rates or passenger rates were likely in the near future. “ We are very much encouraged by the better turn-round of ships in Australian ports which is helping to keep our costs down”, Mr. Crichton said.
In March, 1959, the “Daily Telegraph” published the following report: -
STORM ON OVERSEAS FREIGHTS.
The Graziers’ Association of New South Wales yesterday called for a Royal Commission into shipping freights.
That was not the first time that a royal commission into shipping freights had been sought. It was noted by the Graziers’ Association that increased freights imposed in 1953, 1955 and 1957 amounted to a total increase of 14 per cent, and that the annual freight bill of more than £100,000,000 was the largest single item in Australia’s balance of payments.
In the “ Sydney Morning Herald “ of 8th July, 1959, the following report appeared: -
Australian exporters yesterday took action to counter a threatened increase in freights on exports to the United Kingdom.
The effect of the operation of the depreciation allowance in the formula is that we buy ships for the conference line. The formula guarantees the 22 British and European shipping lines carrying cargo from Australia to the United Kingdom and Europe a 12 per cent, return on capital employed. I wonder whether all the private enterprise businesses in Australia would like to have operating a nice little formula guaranteeing a 12 per cent, net profit!
The Melbourne “Age” of 18th July, 1959, contained a heading “ Freight Costs Losing Markets “. That is exactly what is happening. If the Government continues with this stupid attitude of increasing the levy on shipping, which is passed on to our industries, we shall price ourselves out of overseas markets. There must be a realization of that fact. In July, 1959, the president of the Wheat and Wool Growers Association complained about this position.
On 3rd October, 1959, exactly nine months after Mr. Crichton had said that there would be no trouble at all, the Melbourne “ Age “ published a report under the heading “ Shipping Lines to Seek Big Freight Increase”, reading -
Representatives of the Australian-European Shipping Conference are expected to press for substantial increases in shipping freights . . .
They are asking for a mere 13 per cent, increase! In 1956, Mr. Justice Ashburner issued an interim award reducing the size of the average gang on a ship from 21 men to fifteen men, and the employers expected the volume of cargo handled to remain unaltered. That the volume has been maintained is shown by the 3,000,000 tons increase in cargo handled in 10,000,000 fewer man-hours. Working on a conservative estimate of 13,000 visits by ships to this country, since 1956 there would be a saving, even on wages alone, of at least £400 in respect of each vessel as a result of the introduction of the Ashburner award of 1956, which could easily work out at £4,000,000 or £5,000,000 a year. Having enjoyed that nice increase from 1956 to 1959, members of the Conference .line now want a 13 per cent, increase in freights. How foolish are the Australian people expected to be?
In the “Age” of 6th September, 1961, we read that there was to be an inquiry on freight charges to Asia. We must ask ourselves why members of the Conference line are charging so much. Going down to the wharfs, one finds that many of the line’s vessels are manned by Indian and Lascar crews, and that there has not been a variation in their wages for many, many years. The ships are mainly old ships, but there are some new ones, and we know that under the formula we have paid for these. We ask ourselves where this increase is going. Honorable members opposite say that high wages in Australia are pricing us out of competition and that we cannot run an overseas shipping line because of the high wages payable to Australian crews. Looking at the Melbourne “ Age “ of 12th May, 1959, we read that lower freight rates are to be charged in respect of the Strait ships of the Australian National Line. The report reads -
Announcing this yesterday, the Chairman of the Australian National Line (Capt. J. T. Williams) said the basis of fixing freights for the service would be radically different from that for orthodox tonnage.
In the same month we read that coal shipment rates were down. A report on 30th May, 1959, stated-
The Minister for Shipping and Transport, Senator Paltridge, to-night announced that following an examination of the various coal trades, the Australian National Line had been able to reduce coal freights. The new cuts will apply from June and range from 2s. to 7s. 6d. per ton.
Over the years ships of the Australian National Line have been operating with the leavings of cargos of other shipping companies and with Australian crews who, according to honorable members opposite, are too expensive, yet this line has been able to reduce freights while the rates of the Conference line are increasing.
– Be honest. That is due to bulk handling.
– I was coming to the bulk handling question, which is important. What provision will be made by means of this levy for waterside workers displaced as a result of mechanization? Is there to be some provision for transferring them to other jobs? Is there to be any mechanization fund or any care for waterside workers?
Diving out of the alley and getting back to the subject - over the years we have found that the Government has not provided the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority with sufficient money to give effect to the provisions of the principal act, which was Act No. 53 of 1956. It has not ensured that the authority has in hand sufficient funds ro improve amenities and facilities on the waterfront. One of the main purposes of the legislation was to assist waterside workers and to make the industry less turbulent. That has been repeated in this House on dozens of occasions. Section 17 (j) of the act states that one of the functions of the authority ;s to provide, or assist in providing, medical attendance, canteens, cafeterias and dining rooms. For many years now the authority, after paying for its administration and for various provisions ordered by the Arbitration Court has been left with insufficient funds to provide amenities in this industry. The Minister has stated that of the lOd. increase, 9d. is for annual leave and Id. for attendance money purposes. Does not the Government consider that there should be an accumulation of funds sufficient to provide amenities for waterside workers, which are deplorably lacking in many ports? Is the authority to continue to provide a medical centre in only one port and only inadequate first-aid facilities in nearly half the ports of Australia? Does the Government say that there will be an increase in work on the waterfront and in the number of man-hours worked, which will thus provide a surplus of funds?
The question in my mind is whether the Government has given any consideration at all to the cost of long-service leave. Is another levy to be introduced? We know that in 1963-64 the main bulk of the men will commence to go on long-service leave and that the cost could be as much as £600,000 a year. Will there be another levy, another burden on the industry to be passed on to the exporters, or will there be some other, new method? I am sure that a new government, which will introduce a new method, will be in power. For many years now the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority has been charged with the responsibility of introducing methods to facilitate and expedite stevedoring operations. It has under its control at the present time an inspectorial staff, but that staff has not been given sufficient power under the act to improve the efficiency of the industry. Further, the authority has not sufficient money, nor has it the power, to send its inspectors overseas with a view to gaining information which would enable them to produce pamphlets to educate those connected with the industry in ways df improving the rate of loading and discharging vessels on the Australian waterfront.
We must presume that a good deal of the revenue from this levy will be used to make long service leave payments. As everybody knows, a tremendous number of anomalies arise under the long service leave legislation. For instance, at the port of Melbourne there are certain coal workers who, because of a technicality, are deemed to have commenced service in 1953, for long service leave purposes. In actual fact, those coal workers were being picked up in the Melbourne bureau and were registered with the authority as far back as 1942, but, because they did not come directly under the control of the authority, their years of service prior to 1953 are not taken into consideration when calculating long service leave entitlement. I know that 1,205,000 tons of coal were handled in the port of Melbourne in 1953. Looking over the figures for the years from 1952 back to 1947, I find that the average tonnage handled each year in that period was approximately the same as that handled in 1953. Somebody must have handled that coal in the years between 1947 and 1952, but the long service leave legislation does not cover those who handled it during that period.
In 1951, a pensioner roster was set up for the veterans at Melbourne, lt was a roster covering men who worked on the wharfs where cargo was received. The term “ pensioner roster “ was just as much a misnomer in those days as it is to-day. The men covered by that roster are denied long service leave privileges. Certain men at Rockhampton are being denied long service leave rights. Again, waterside workers who enlisted in 1939 and 1940 and returned in 1945 and 1946-1 know of at least 300 of them in Brisbane - are being denied continuity of service for long service leave purposes, although workers in other industries have been granted that benefit. There are many such anomalies, and I am confident that if they were ironed out the cost of long service leave would increase by at least one-third.
In those circumstances, we must expect to see introduced into this Parliament before very long another stevedoring industry bill, designed to impose a further loading on the export industries of this country. It is time this Government gave consideration to subsidizing the administration of the Stevedoring Industry Authority, in order to permit our goods to be sent overseas at reasonable freight charges. It is time the Government was called upon to reconsider this stevedoring industry levy and to adopt Labour’s policy, under which the Commonwealth would accept responsibility for the administrative costs and the payment of the employees of the authority who operate the bureaus which facilitate mobility of labour.
The honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) asked for suggestions for controlling turbulence in the stevedoring industry. One suggestion I have to offer is that, perhaps, under the terms of the Constitution, the Commonwealth could enter into an agreement with the States under which the Commonwealth would control the employment of waterside workers, who would be employees of an Australian authority. These employees could then be divided into gangs, working under regular foremen and supervisors. The gangs would be hired out to the stevedoring companies which control the stevedoring of ships. These companies would be charged- something in excess of the wages payable to the waterside workers, this excess being regarded as payment by the stevedoring companies for the service of providing the labour.
– Order! The honorable member’s time has expired.
.- We see a very big change in the attitude adopted by the Opposition when it is proposed to amend the Stevedoring Industry Act with a view to increasing the stevedoring industry charge by an amount made necessary because of the introduction last year of the long-service leave legislation. It is interesting to note that when the long-service leave legislation was being discussed last year, honorable members opposite voiced strong opposition to the measure. Not only did they oppose it, but they recruited bus loads of waterside workers from nearby coastal ports to come to Canberra and make a show of their opposition to it. Unfortunately for them, that legislation has proved so successful that on this occasion the only way in which they can make even a pretence of opposing the measure is to misrepresent the facts completely. As the honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) pointed out, the honorable member for Blaxland (Mr. E. James Harrison) completely misrepresented the average wage earned by waterside workers in Queensland. The honorable member for Blaxland lumped B class ports together with A class ports. I have said before, and it will bear repeating now, that Queensland has a number of B class ports, at which work is subject to rises and falls in primary production. Unlike the major southern ports, the Queensland ports have no established industry, because that State suffered 40 years of misrule by a Labour government. Now honorable members opposite are endeavouring to use those facts against us. The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. O’Brien) followed the same line of misrepresentation as did the honorable member for Blaxland. The honorable member for Petrie claimed that the honorable member for Bruce had said that the average wage earned by the waterside workers was £30 a week. The honorable member for Bruce said definitely that £30 was the rate for Sydney and Melbourne. There can be no mistake about that.
Then the honorable member for Petrie went on to say that the stevedoring industry is meeting the cost of this tremendous increase to 3s. 4d. a man-hour. When introducing the bill, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) said -
The fact is that the increase of lOd. proposed is only Id. more than the average levy which employers had previously imposed on themselves to meet the cost of annual leave. The remaining Id. represents the net increased costs and potential costs attributable to the other factors already mentioned.
That obviously blows out the suggestion by the honorable member for Petrie that this proposal represents a sudden imposition on the industry.
Another suggestion made by the honorable member was that this levy has meant an increase of 5 per cent, in the freights charged by the conference lines. That was a very interesting point. If we disregarded other considerations, we might be tempted to accept that argument, but I point out that the Australian ports constitute only one end of the service. The ships travel between two countries. Yet the increase at this end is said1 to be responsible for increasing freight rates. I think the more likely reason for the increase is the drop in the export trade between Great Britain and Europe and ourselves. After all, to ensure an efficient and profitable shipping service it is necessary to have cargoes each way, and there has been a considerable falling off in our exports to Great Britain. In the seven months ended December last our exports to Great Britain were valued at £119,000,000, by comparison with £147,000,000 worth of exports in the previous seven months. Obviously, that is a tremendous change. For another thing, the balance-sheets of the overseas shipping companies show a great decline in their profits - a tremendous drop in their profits.
– Are you a shareholder?
– I should not like to be a shareholder. Of course, it is very easy to make this sort of claim. [Quorum formed.] Perhaps the reason for the lack of interest shown by the Opposition in this debate is that the previous speaker virtually cleared the House. He emphasized the fact that there has been a considerable increase in tonnage handled on the waterfront with relatively fewer manhours being worked, but he did not take into consideration the tremendous increase in bulk cargoes, which have had a great influence on this apparent increased efficiency of manual labour on the waterfront. The honorable member for Blaxland said that modern machines had very little bearing on increased efficiency on the waterfront. I have no doubt that he would suggest that the old1 pick and shovel are as efficient as endloaders, bulldozers, scrapers and other modern equipment. This is the sort of reasoning that honorable members apply to this measure.
The honorable member for Petrie suggested that we could do better with our national shipping line, and referred to the lowering of freight rates. There again, bulk handling is the important factor. The honorable member has not suggested that any general cargo rates are being reduced and the reductions that he mentioned apply to the handling of coal, wheat and sugar. The bulk handling of all these cargoes has been made necessary because of inefficiency on the waterfront. I can recall as, no doubt, can the honorable member for Petrie, the great interruptions, industrial disputes and turbulence in the port of Mackay in Queensland where a few years ago 300 watersiders were employed. To-day, with bulk handling of sugar, only 28 men are at work in that port. That change has been brought about by the turbulence and industrial lawlessness to which the honorable member referred. We are one of the great trading nations of the world, despite our population of only 10,000,000, and trade, particularly in our export industries, is vital to us. Any suggestion that this charge of 3s. 4d. is a sudden imposition on our export industries is utterly ridiculous. As the Minister for Labour and National Service has said, it amounts only to an increased charge of1d. for each man-hour, and it has been caused by increases in the basic wage, margins and so on.
I believe that the legislation which has been introduced by the Government in relation to waterfront employment has been a tremendous success. Turbulence in the waterfront industry has been dissipated to a considerable degree. Figures before me show that in the four months’ period from June to September last year, when the new machines were in operation, only 7,000 man-hours were lost on the waterfront, by comparison with an average loss of 65,000 man-hours over the past three years. That is a very considerable change which obviously will mean much to our export industries. Thanks to the legislation introduced by this Government, efficiency has been brought to the waterfront. This Government has given the watersider an opportunity to do a fair day’s work. After all, 90 per cent. of our waterside workers are good Australians who want, only the opportunity to work - and this Government has given them that chance.
It has been suggested that there is bitterness among waterside workers and that they have been forced into this industry. I should say that if there were any such bitterness an Australian Labour Party man would not have been elected secretary of the Waterside Workers Federation. There would have been a Communist in the position. That would have been an indication of bitterness. The fact is that a Labour man succeeded the Communist, Mr. Healy - through no help from the Australian Labour Party, as has been made quite clear.
The honorable member for Petrie referred with pride to the days of long ago when splendid work was done on the waterfront under a Labour government. But the honorable member for Bruce said on one occasion that the 20,000 waterside employees out of a total work force of 4,200,000 were responsible for 30 per cent. of the man-hours lost in this country. There has been a big change in Australia, as shown by the figures that I have quoted. I believe that this legislation has meant much to our export industries. I repeat, this is not a sudden imposition of 3s. 4d. on the industry and, incidentally, on the community, but an increased charge of only1d. a man-hour above what the employers had imposed on themselves. The important fact is that it has brought peace and efficiency to the waterfront. Such conditions will mean lower costs to the whole community.
.- On a previous occasion, the honorable member for McPherson (Mr. Barnes) had a few kind words to say for the new members from his own State of Queensland. I might reciprocate by not saying anything harsh about the speech he has just made. In his second-reading speech, the Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) said -
The charge is a levy on man-hours worked and is paid by employers in the industry.
That is a statement that could be easily misunderstood. The money is paid by the employers in the industry, but it is collected by them from some one else. Nobody would imagine that the employers would pay this contribution out of their own funds. The charge is immediately put into freight rates. When you find that one charge alone in this levy amounts to more than £1,000,000, it is evident that the impost could not be absorbed in any other way. One would expect that at least some members of the Australian Country Party would have considered the fact that the country people - the primary producers - meet this charge. Primary products form a large percentage of Australia’s exports, and an increase in freight as a result of the charge we are considering could be vital when we are selling our produce in Europe. A few pence can price Australian products off the European market. This is most important to our primary producers, particularly at a time when they are likely to be the victims of arrangements made through the European Common Market.
This charge is to be made against manhours worked. It is obvious, as the honorable member for McPherson himself pointed out, that it is not a charge against items handled on the wharfs that do not involve man-hours worked by waterside workers. For example, oil and the bauxite to be exported from north Queensland will be handled by mechanical means and will contribute nothing at all. When these charges were introduced sugar was exported from Australia in sacks and was handled by waterside workers so that there was a levy on sugar. To-day, sugar is handled in bulk. Has there been any decrease in the freight on sugar that is exported because of the reduction in the charge against the shipping companies? The answer is obvious. There have been no decreases in the freight rates on sugar since the end of the Second World War; there have been only increases. The shipping companies are in exactly the same position as a retail trading firm which is known to me. It charges in its overhead - and therefore in the prices of everything it sells - 5 per cent, to cover bad debts. In one year, it had only 1 per cent, of bad debts and so it made a profit out of bad debts.
We have been told that these charges are not always made and that there have been occasions when they have been lifted because the accumulated fund has warranted such action. What happened? If the original charge was put into freight rates and at some stage we did not collect the levy, the shipping companies virtually put it into their pockets. There can be no other inference. That is not misrepresentation. Has any move ever been made by the Government to have freight rates adjusted when the levy was not in effect? If that had been done even for a short period of years, we might have expanded our markets in Europe for primary products; but the opportunity has been missed.
Speaking of misrepresentation, it has been said that at times the waterside workers have received attendance money for longer periods than they received wages. The port of Gladstone was quoted in that connexion. That is misrepresentation. The honorable member concerned did not explain that attendance money is paid in Gladstone only while it is classified as an A class port, and that over the greater period of the year it is reduced by the Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority to class B status. At such rimes, no attendance money is paid. There is very little work either. The waterside workers in Gladstone get nine hours’ work a week. That is not much for them to exist on and yet the men must be available in the area in case they are required even when Gladstone is a B class port. Rockhampton also is in my electorate. The waterside workers in that port have been deprived of the period from 1942 to 1947 for long service leave benefits because they were not registered by the Stevedoring Industry Commission until 1947. Therefore, some of them will never get the benefit of long service leave.
We might have expected some consideration of all these facts by members of the Australian Country Party since their electors, and not the shipping companies, have to pay this levy. The shipping company collects the money from those who export produce. The companies can pass on the charge, but the farmers cannot do that. They have to carry the impost while suffering a disability wherever their products are marketed. Very often the charge, or even an amount which was not levied, is included in the freight rates and is carried forward into the prices of goods at the other end of the world. As a result, our producers have been priced out of markets unjustly. These are matters that we could reasonably expect members of the Country Party to consider.
Speaking of the prosperity of the waterside workers, we have to remember that mechanization does not profit the waterside workers. In Gladstone, the number of persons employed on the waterfront fell in the three years between 1958 and 1961 from 97 to 77. The numbers employed at Rockhampton fell from 268 to 206 and in Bowen from 164 to 64. In Mackay the number has fallen from 132 to 95. The honorable member for Bruce (Mr. Snedden) said that in his opinion no group of workers enjoyed better conditions than did waterside workers. But I know of no workers who have less security in their jobs. That is something that must be considered. The average person earning a living has continuous access to his job. That is as it should be. A man’s job should give him an income for 52 weeks in the year, including annual holidays, but waterside workers do not enjoy that privilege. As I have reminded the House, waterside workers in Gladstone get nine hours’ work a week. When a port is classified as a B port the waterside workers may register for unem- ployment benefit and obtain work of a temporary nature. But, as I have already told Cbe House, they must leave their temporary fobs and return to the waterfront if called “upon to do so. Then, if work again -becomes unavailable, they must wait two weeks before being eligible to receive social service payments.
The things that are financed by the levy are things to which the waterside worker is entitled because of the nature of his work. It may be taken for granted that the Arbitration Commission would not have granted those conditions of employment to waterside workers if they had not been warranted. Honorable members opposite have been careful to point out that the commis”sion is an independent body which carefully considers evidence and grants conditions that it thinks are justified. I agree with that point of view. Therefore, it must be accepted that waterside workers have been given no more than they are entitled to receive. To argue to the contrary would be to argue that the arbitration system is not functioning properly. We cannot have it both ways.
If we take it for granted that the waterside workers are entitled to the conditions laid down by the commission, we must have regard to the amount of work that is available to them and to the effect that this levy will have. Honorable members opposite have asked what we would substitute for the levy. I suggest that a different method of applying the levy could be devised - a method that would equate it fairly with the tonnage that passes across the wharfs and not only that portion that is bandied by waterside workers, which is a shrinking percentage of the total tonnage.
– The charge is still passed on to the primary producer whichever way you do it.
– Yes, but that is not the only alternative. The commission is a Government instrumentality. Its employees are civil servants. I ask my friend from the Country Party, who has interjected, why he should tolerate an imposition on the section of the community that he represents, a charge that should be spread over the whole community by means of general taxation. Officers of the Stevedoring Industry Authority should be paid in the same way as other civil servants are paid. They should not be a charge against the primary producer.
– I said that this charge is finally passed on to the primary producer.
– The honorable member for Mallee supports the Government, which has the power to alter the present situation. The Labour Party is not yet the government, but when it assumes office it will alter the present situation. Then the farmer will not be asked to carry as much of the charge as he has carried in the past.
– When Labour was last in power the farmer carried more of the charge.
– Order! The honorable member for Mallee should cease interjecting.
– We on this side of the chamber do not claim that the waterside workers should not receive the amenities paid for by the levy but we claim that the levy is wrongly imposed. The levy is based on man-hours. Man-hours on the waterfront are diminishing. I have already referred to the handling of sugar. Originally sugar was handled by men, but it is now handled mechanically and no levy is paid to the authority in respect of it, but the shipping companies still make a charge to cover what would be the cost of the levy if it were applied. The levy has not been reduced even in circumstances where it is no longer applied. The Government should inquire into matters such as that without seeking to increase the levy. The Government should also have regard to the fact that the authority is in effect a government instrumentality and should be financed as any other government department is financed. The cost of its operations should not be applied to a section of the community that is no longer able to carry this burden.
Those are some of the criticisms that we on this side of the House offer to this bill. We earnestly suggest that the Government endeavour to apply this charge on a more just basis. The country will then be that much better off.
.- I support the bill, which has as its purpose the increasing of the rate of the stevedoring industry charge from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 4d. a man-hour. The Minister for Labour and National Service (Mr. McMahon) left no doubt in his second-reading speech about the intention of the bill. He said -
As to annual leave payments by the authority, it was recognized from the outset that the stevedoring industry charge would have to be increased to finance these payments to replace the self-imposed levy of the employers. However, it has been possible to delay this step to date because the employers handed over to the authority their Annual Leave Trust Fund of some £1,200,000 and because of the authority’s earlier strong reserves from which payments for annual leave have been met since the trust fund was exhausted.
What the Minister meant was that if the shipowners had not set aside an amount of money that was derived from a selfimposed levy at an average rate of 9d. a manhour, the Stevedoring Industry Authority levy would have had to be increased much earlier than this date. The implementation of the levy as a statutory charge has been delayed because of the amount of money that was accrued by shipowners for annual leave purposes.
Honorable members opposite have used this debate as a medium to disperse throughout Australia the type of propaganda that the Communist leaders of the Waterside Workers’ Federation wish to be dispersed. The Opposition claims that it has no association whatever with the Communist Party, but honorable members opposite have been spreading Communist propaganda. The attacks that Opposition speakers have made on the bill, and, through the bill, on the Government, are in line with the attacks that Communist leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation have made over the years on constitutional authority, to which they are naturally opposed. Opposition members become emotional when they speak of waterside workers. I want to make it abundantly clear that I have the highest esteem for the waterside worker as a man. He is loyal to his country and wants to do a good job for the wage he is paid. He does not purposely try to take advantage of his employer. But unfortunately the waterside worker does not control his own destiny. He is told what to do by the leaders of the Waterside Workers Federation, which is a very militant union.
Let me get back to logic and away from the emotionalism of Opposition members. We must consider the purpose of the increased levy. The Australian Stevedoring Industry Authority, at page 92 of its report for the year ended 30th June, 1961, sets out clearly the reason for the increased levy. The Opposition, of course, could not oppose the bill, because such opposition could result in waterside workers being deprived of attendance money, annual leave, statutory holiday pay, sick leave, long-service leave and other privileges.
The financial statement of the authority for the year ended 30th June, 1961, shows that it expended £4,006,465, of which £3,233,437 was paid to waterside workers. Attendance money cost £1,109,294; annual leave, £1,090,174; and statutory holiday pay £612,874. Additional payments were made for sick leave and long-service leave, which is now becoming a substantial item in the accounts of the authority. The authority is, in effect, called on to establish a larger fund out of which commitments to waterside workers can be paid, including benefits granted to the waterside workers by the court, the authority and, particularly, the Government. “ The honorable member for Petrie (Mr. O’Brien) attacked the Government for increasing the levy. He contended that this will lead to an increase of freight rates. He stated quite boldly that already overseas freight rates had been increased by 5 per cent. Obviously, he has not taken the trouble to ascertain the facts. The Australian Overseas Transport Association, on which overseas shipowners and various export organizations are represented, has agreed that an increase of 5 per cent, can be applied during the next two years, should this become necessary. It is quite foolish and quite irresponsible, therefore, to say that freights have been increased by 5 per Cent, already.
The honorable member for Capricornia (Mr. Gray), tried to show that the lot of the waterside worker is very hard. He said that they had not the security that men in other avenues of employment had. That statement is incorrect.
– It is not nonsense. If you know anything about the industry you will know that the Waterside Workers Federation has a complete monopoly of work on the waterfront.
– How would you like to live-
– Order! The honorable member for Wills will have an opportunity to speak later.
– The federation has a complete monopoly of work on the waterfront. The honorable member for Capricornia said that men had been thrown out of comparatively full employment in Queensland ports. I point out that these men are entitled to transfer to other ports and may do so if the spirit moves them. In what other field of employment can a man transfer to the same type of work in some other place if he is dismissed from his present employment? None! From that point of view, the waterside worker has very definite security. His union has a monopoly of the work and he may transfer to any port he chooses. Men do in fact transfer in this way. When they so desire and their economic position is sound, they transfer perhaps from Brisbane to Hobart and make a holiday of it.
– That is direction of labour.
– It is the very opposite of direction of labour. These men can elect to go to any place that meets their convenience. No direction of labour is involved.
The honorable member for Capricornia suggested that conditions of employment are not very good and that the waterside worker is at a disadvantage when compared with employees in other industries. Of course, that suggestion is not correct. The waterside worker has the benefit of long industrial litigation over many years. The Waterside Workers Federation has engaged able advocates to appeal before the court. I would say that the lot of the waterside worker is particularly good. Through his union, he has obtained many benefits from the court, and he has rightly grasped these benefits with both hands. Frankly, I like to see the waterside worker succeed when his application for improved conditions has merit. However, if is it good enough for him to obtain these benefits from the court, it is good enough for him to abide by our constitutional laws. Having obtained improved conditions from the court, it is completely wrong for the waterside worker to hold the court up to ridicule and to hold the country to ransom. The waterside workers do this with their unauthorized stoppages - and the Opposition claims that these stoppages are the right of all trade unionists. I say that a strike is completely illegal and that men have no right by concerted action to indulge in a strike, except in circumstances in which their own safety is involved. Mr. Speaker, I ask for leave to continue my remarks at a later stage.
Leave granted; debate adjourned.
Message received from the Senate intimating that the following senators had been appointed members of the Parliamentary Proceedings Broadcasting Committee: - The President of the Senate and Senators Arnold and Marriott.
The following bills were returned from the Senate: -
Without amendment -
States Grants Bill 1962.
Without requests -
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution (Rebate) Bill 1962.
Income Tax and Social Services Contribution (Provisional Tax) Bill 1962.
Motion (by Mr. Downer) proposed -
That the House do now adjourn.
Motion (by Mr. Downer) put -
That the question be now put.
The House divided. (Mr. Speaker - Hon. Sir John McLeay.)
Question so resolved in the affirmative.
Original question resolved in the affirmative.
House adjourned at 10.39 p.m.
The following answers to questions were circulated: -
m asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1-3. The information in the attached schedule relates to aircraft chartered by the Government in 1960-61:-
d asked the Minister for External Affairs, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
b asked the Prime Minister, upon notice -
What conditions applicable to temporary employees have been laid down by the Public
Service Board in respect of - (a) the employment of (i) married and (ii) single women; (b) age limitations, and (c) any other limitations?
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
son asked the Minister for Labour and National Service, upon notice -
How many physically handicapped persons were successfully referred to employment by the Commonwealth Employment Service in 1961 and in what capacities were they employed?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
The number of persons with a severe disability representing a handicap in obtaining employment appropriate to their age, experience, and qualifications, placed in employment by the Commonwealth Employment Service during 1961 was 6,655. No separate occupational dissection is maintained but it can be said that these physically handicapped persons were placed in a wide variety of occupations, essentially no different from the scope available to those not handicapped.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
I will arrange for this proposal to be considered when the income tax legislation is under review during the preparation of the next Commonwealth Budget.
b asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
d asked the Minister representing the Minister for Health, upon notice -
– The Minister for Health has furnished the following replies: -
m asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What amount of new loans on housing mortgages was made by life assurance companies in (a) 1960 and (b) 1961?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
No information is available concerning the total amounts of new loans on housing mortgages made by life insurance companies. The only information available is the total investment by life insurance companies in housing mortgages at particular dates. The increase in this amount, representing the difference between new loans granted and loan repayments, was £18,000,000 in 1960 and £7,300,000 in the first nine months of 1961. In addition, there were minor variations in the total sum advanced to or invested in building and housing societies.
b asked the Minister for Shipping and Transport, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister representing the Minister in charge of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, upon notice -
I refer to reports of the spread of mint weed in the north-west of New South Wales causing some thousands of acres of valuable pasture land to go out of production. Will the Minister direct the valuable attention of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization to this problem1, which is said to be out of control under the present methods of eradication?
– The Minister has supplied the following information: -
The spread of mint weed in north-west New South Wales has primarily come about because of the weakening of the native stands of plains grass in the area involved. Although the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization has conducted some preliminary studies into the possibility of chemical control of the weed I understand it is now felt that control might best be achieved by the establishment of improved pastures capable of competing with the mint weed. Unfortunately, at the present time it is not possible to divert the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization’s resources to enable a thorough study of the problem. However, I can assure the honorable member that the matter will be kept in mind in future planning of the organization’s research programme.
n asked the Treasurer, upon notice -
What is the estimated cost of the various pieces of legislation foreshadowed by the Government for enactment during this session?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
As announced in the Governor-General’s Speech, bills have been or will be introduced in the current session of Parliament to give effect to the series of special measures designed to increase employment and business confidence. The estimated cost of these and other proposals foreshadowed for enactment in the current session, in the current financial year and in a full year, is set out below. The figures shown for the cost of taxation concessions are estimates of the amounts by which revenue will be reduced directly by the operation of the lower rates of tax. They do not take account of offsetting gains to revenue resulting from the stimulatory effects of the measures themselves.
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
What alterations or extensions are proposed for the Kyneton Post Office and when is it expected that they will be commenced?
– The answer to the honorable member’s question is as follows: -
Because of the present high demand for telephone and postal services throughout the Commonwealth, it is necessary to concentrate Post Office resources on projects immediately essential to the effective conduct of Post Office operations. Alterations and additions to the Kyneton Post Office building to provide additional working areas and public space are being considered and will be carried out as soon as circumstances permit. However, there are a number of projects throughout Australia of greater urgency than the Kyneton building and I am unable to say at this stage when it will be possible for work on this project to be commenced.
n asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
s asked the Minister for Supply, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
r asked the PostmasterGeneral, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Postmaster-General, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1, 2, 3, 4. Pursuant to the provisions of the Broadcasting and Television Act 1942-1960, licensees of commercial television stations furnish their accounts to the Australian Broadcasting Control Board each financial year and I receive a report from the board on the accounts. It is not my practice, nor has it been the practice of former Postmasters-General to disclose or comment publicly upon the financial results of a particular station or group of stations as disclosed by the information which they forward for the purposes of the act. The stations do not operate on a free licence. Licensees of commercial television stations pay an annual licence fee of £100 plus 1 per cent. of gross earnings from the televising of advertisements or other matter in accordance with the requirements of the Broadcasting and Television Stations Licence Fees Act 1956.
g asked the Minister for Primary Industry, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
m asked the Minister for Territories, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
How many homes were erected in each State during each of the years 1956 to 1961, inclusive, under the provisions of the War Service Homes Act?
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answer to the honorable member’s question: -
Newly erected homes provided under the War Service Homes Act fall into three categories. The total number of new homes provided in each of the categories in each State during the years specified are set out hereunder: -
n asked the Minister representing the Minister for National Development, upon notice -
– The Minister for National Development has supplied the following answers to the honorable member’s questions: -
son asked the Minister representing the Minister for Civil Aviation, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: - 1 and 2. The major structural alterations that Trans-Australia Airlines have undertaken to their Sydney air -terminal have been - 1955-56-Extension to passenger lounge and traffic offices to meet increased traffic requirements. Contractor, A. J. Blyth. Expenditure, £72,950. 1958 - New buffet and club lounge. Contractor, J. W. Dun Limited. Expenditure, £9,625. 1959 - Rearrangement of despatch office for more efficient working. Contractor, Fletcher Constructions. Expenditure, £2,265. 1962 - Extension to passenger lounge and offices to meet increased traffic requirements. Contractor, Thiess Brothers Proprietary Limited. Expenditure £138,000.
d asked the Minister for Social
Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
b asked the Minister for Social Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
n asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Homes for the Aged.
n asked the Minister for Social Services, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is as follows: -
Our records show no instance where an application for subsidy under the Aged Persons Homes Act by an organization in the Bendigo electoral division has been rejected.
n asked the Minister representing the Acting Minister for Trade, upon notice -
– The answer to the honorable member’s questions is -
The freight rates and terms of contracts operating for exports of wool, meat, dairy products, fruit and general cargo from Australia to the United Kingdom and the Continent are determined by negotiation. This is carried out within the Council of the Australian Oversea Transport Association (A.O.T.A.) by an equal number of representatives of exporters and producers on the one hand and representatives of the shipowners on the other. Decisions of the council require a majority of both groups.
In February, 1957, the council adopted a “ formula “ arrangement for determining variations in freight and, in October, 1959, the formula terms were renewed with certain modifications. The actual terms of the formula are largely confidential to the parties concerned but, in general, the formula aims to establish freight rates at a level which will provide the shipping companies with what both parties regard as a reasonable return on capital. This Government, in common with previous governments, has pursued a policy of leaving such matters as shipping services and freight rates to be resolved by negotiation between the exporters and the shipping companies.In these negotiations shippers and producers are represented by the Federal Exporters’ Oversea Transport Committee, which is fully aware of shippers’ requirements both in the short run and in the long term. If differences were to occur in the course of these negotiations and a serious problem emerged, the Government would certainly take an interest in the situation. In 1953 and 1955, when the parties to the negotiations deadlocked, the Commonwealth upon invitation intervened as a fact-finding mediator and assisted the parties concerned to reach a mutually acceptable agreement.
d asked the Minister for the Interior, upon notice -
– The answers to the honorable member’s questions are as follows: -
Approximately 3,600 acres.
Cite as: Australia, House of Representatives, Debates, 27 March 1962, viewed 22 October 2017, <http://historichansard.net/hofreps/1962/19620327_reps_24_hor34/>.